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"I Have Here a Plant-School." 

— Luther Burbank 

Copyright Edition, Santa Rosa, Cal. 
Published by the Pacific Short Story Club. 



1913, Copyright by Slusser, Williams and Beeson. 



To Luther Burhank, lover of plants 
and lover of children. 


Luther Burbank is a new manner of man, doing a new work. This book tells 
the story of how the man became what he is, and hov/ he learned to do the won- 
derful things SQ many have heard of, but about which so few really know. It is 
written for the children, yet many an older person can glean with interest from 
its pages, and no doubt it will be the cherished volume of many a nature lover, — 
a thoughtful gift to many a lover of flowers, serving to open wide the hidden 
laws of plant and tree life. 

The thought of these stories is in line with the spirit of the age. To unfold 
the use of natural law and to use natural force as a leverage to make mankind 
more comfortable and happy, giving the soul a chance to expand— that is the 
problem of the ages. We have harnessed water power, steam, electricity. We 
have vaguely kinown that species of plants were susceptible of improvement. 
Even the Indian by a sort of unconscious selection improved his corn. Now 
suddenly it has burst on the world that plants by cross-pollenation and selection, 
by care, study of habits and fertilizers, may have their power as food producers 
and for beauty multiplied by the score or even by the hundreds. How is it done ? 
How can it be done? This little book is an attempt to open this door to 

Among certain classes of American people the drift is clearly to the farm. 
In fact farm life has a charm for most people that cannot be conquered. The 
effect of rapid transportation, quick and easy communication, is to put the farm 
a dozen miles from the city's center closer than the villa which, a score of years 
ago, was a mile's walk away. Once educate the public into the riches of scientific 
growth of plants and animals and the farmer will no longer be falsely looked 
upon by the city-bred as plebeian or peasant. New methods of farm life are 
to make human life, as far as it can be on this globe, the Eden where "every day 
turns a fresh inspiring page, each season is a stronger chapter, and life is a con- 
tinual joyous revelation." 

The aim in writing this book has been to build an interesting and practical 
science reader for children. In further spirit of the times it has been couched 
in story form. Selections from the stories, with comments by the teacher, may 
be read aloud to the fourth, fifth or sixth grade, and this with great advantage. 

Its most effective work is to be done in the seventh and eighth grades where it 
will go very far to make a success of nature study, agriculture and school gard- 
ening. Being the work of successful and experienced teachers, all of whom have 
lived within the shadow of the Santa Rosa experimental gardens, who have 
known the famous plant creator personally, and who have had his sympathy, sug- 
gestion, and criticism, the schools of California are to be congratulated upon the 
opportunity to get, first hand, Burbank's spirit and method. Much or all of these 
pages have been tried out in the class-work of these story writers. The work has, 
therefore, been planned to please the pupils, but as well, to instruct. Mrs. Bee- 
son, Mr. Burbank's sister, has put into her share of the work many things never 
before in print and these will help the public to understand the life and instincts 
of her brother. 

The plant-master himself, has a great love for children and has taken from 
his own busy life, over-crowded with duties bearing upon his great study, to 
pass upon, and criticise chapter after chapter of the following pages. It was like 
the intense, inspired worker he is, to do this, for he always sees the thing neces- 
sary to be done, and even in the touches of attention given to these stories, there is 
evidence of the same lesson of toil and application, the intention to carry to a suc- 
cessful issue any problem he undertakes to solve. In its ultimate analysis, his 
work always proves a work of the spirit. 

He writes his name upon the garden leaves, 
And conjures with the blossom hour by hour ; 
And like the mystic basket-maker, weaves 
His soul into the beauty of the flower. 

This book, it is hoped, will blaze a clear trail to new and better work in mak- 
ing plants what they should be — better producers of sustenance for man, and bet- 
ter bearers of that beauty which is food for his soul. 

He:nry M^ade: Bland, 
Department of English, State Normal School, San Jose, CaL 

July 12, 1913. 



I.— The Plant School i 

IL— The Plant School— Continued 5 

III.— The vStory of The Shasta Daisy 9 

IV.— The Climax Plum 12 

V. — Miss Eschscholtzia Has a New Dress 15 

VI.—The Training of Thornless 17 

VII. — Fragrance 19 

VIII. — The Little Immigrants 22 

IX.— The Lily Pupils 24 

X. — The New England Garden 2^ 

XL— The Sunset Class 30 

XII.— The Ennobling of Little Beach 33 

XIII.— The Fire Poppy 36 

XIV.— The New Strawberry 39 

XV.— The Rainbow Class 41 

XVI.— The Waif of The School 43 

XVII.— The Vegetable Garden 46 

XVIIL— Where the Brown Nuts Fall 50 

XIX.— Calla's Story 53 

XX.— The First Pupil 56 

XXI. — Bramble's Story 60 

XXII.— The Wilding 63 

XXIIL— The Birds' Feast 65 

XXIV.— The Rose and Her Part 67 


XX\'. — The Fireside Fruit 70 

XXM.— The Plumcot 73 

XXVII.— The Flowering Currant 76 

XXVIIL— The Athletes , 79 

XXIX.— Cherries 83 

XXX.— The Earliest Grape 86 

XXXI.— Useful and Beautiful 89 

XXXIL— Jumbo 92 

XXXIII.— Opuntia, The Cactus Child 96 

XXXIV. — Opuntia's Training 99 

XXXV. — Opuntia, One of the Most Famous Pupils 103 

XXXVL— How New Plants Are Made 106 

XXXVII.— The Seed Room 109 

XXXVIIL— Luther Burbank's Childhood 113 

XXXIX. — Quotations From Luther Burbank 118 

XL. — Program 124 






Many^ many thousands of plant pupils are each year enrolled in the Burbank 
plant school at Santa Rosa, California. They are not there to produce fruit, nuts 
and vegetables for food, or flowers for beauty alone ; but to be developed, educat- 
ed, trained ; and thus to acquire new habits and characters, that they may be of 
greater worth to the world. 

Pupils come from every land seeking admission, many of them having very 
interesting histories. Some are from the gardens of the King of Italy, others 
from the royal gardens of Japan and some have been sent by missionaries from 
far away Siberia and India and from many out-of-the-way places of the earth. 
There are pupils from Australia and New Zealand, from Alaska and Patagonia, 
from Europe and South America. 

To secure strange and rare plants, capable of improvement, men have searched 
the most remote places. They have climbed mountain precipices, forded over- 
flowing streams and crossed barren plains, many times meeting discomfort and 
danger in the work. Always, however, the trees and plants of our own land form 
the largest groups. Not alone are those which are commonly cultivated and of 
recognized value given a place; but often a despised or neglected weed, at first 
appearance quite unattractive, has become a prize pupil in the school. 

Not always because of apparent good qualities do plants obtain a place. 
Some possess latent, or undeveloped tendencies, of great value ; others are plastic, 
responding to environment, and, under the direction of the master, readily form 
new habits and characters. Still others are simply lazy, degenerate members of 
a good family, and, by patient care, may be corrected and reformed, so as to be- 
come useful citizens of the plant kingdom. 

Luther Burbank, the teacher, sees wonderful possibilities in plant Hfe; but 
he knows that each desired shade and tint, form and grace, perfume and flavor, 
must be developed in the character of a plant by slow and repeated effort just as 
a child is trained and directed year after year by loving parents and teachers. 
He works patiently; and, when the least indication of improvement is seen, con- 
tinues his efforts with the plant; otherwise, it must be rejected and the place given 

2 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

to another. As plants are less responsive in their nature than children, in this 
school ten thousand in one class may fail and only one meet the requirements and 
yet the work go on ; for, like the master, plants seem never to become disheartened. 
Usually from six to eight years are required to complete the education of a pupil, 
but some have remained under his tuition for thirty or more years. 

Beautiful vines climb over the Burbank home in the "City of Roses." It is a 
large square house, somewhat resembling his childhood home. Around it the 
flowers bloom and trees and shrubs grow with so much of their native air and 
grace that it has become a favorite haunt of the birds. Even the shy quail run 
across the lawn, and, unmolested, rear their little ones in the quiet shade. A nar- 
row, w^inding foot path under the trees leads to the Santa Rosa creek, whose banks 
are lined with trees and vines. Among these every morning the woodthrush sings 
with the same sweet, clear bell-like tones that charmed Burbank, when a boy in 
his New England home. 

No less lovely than the plants surrounding the home are the eager, happy 
faces of the school children, as they peep through the fence at the master and his 
flowers. That the boys and girls know and appreciate his love for trees and birds 
is shown by the following pledge voluntarily signed by the four hundred children 
of one of the Santa Rosa schools and presented to him on his 62nd birthday : 

''Today, as a part of our Arbor Day exercises and in honor of one, who is, 
we know, a sincere friend of birds and trees, we pledge ourselves to befriend all 
of God's creatures, to protect the birds, and not to maliciously destroy trees or any 
of the other beauties of nature." 

Just across the street are the experiment grounds. The enclosing fence is so 
low that passers-by may see and enjoy the beauty of the flowers without entering 
and thus interrupting the work. Entering at the gate one meets bright, happy 
flowers on every side. 

Here is the vine-covered cottage in which for many years the mother, who 
gave the master his first lessons in plant culture, lived with him, while her hair 
became white and her steps slower as she neared the land where the flowers never 
fade. Over the cottage gently sway the graceful boughs of an elm tree brought 
by Burbank years ago from the Massachusetts home; and near it among rare 
trees and shrubs from foreign lands grows a beautiful white birch, also from the 
childhood home. 

Near the conservatory are the packing sheds, where trees, plants and bulbs 

The Plant School 3 

are made ready for shipment, and are started, often on very long journeys, in ex- 
change for other seeds and plants. 

In the conservatory the seeds are sown in boxes, and the baby plants break 
through the carefully prepared soil to meet the light of day, sometimes many 
thousands in one box. Often, as one enters, a little brown tree toad jumps upon 
the door-knob and awaits recognition. The very valuable work of toads in destroy- 
ing insects is understood, and this is an especial pet. Its tiny bead-like eyes note 
every movement, and the little fellow jumps upon Burbank's extended hand and 
curls down to be softly stroked by him. 

When a few weeks old the little plants are given more room by transplant- 
ing into other boxes ; later these boxes are placed outside and protected by large 
wooden frames, until the plants become hardened so that they are able to with- 
stand sun and wind, then they are set in beds, where the soil has been made read}^ 
for them. 

The grounds consist of eight acres, under the most intense cultivation, on 
which, no doubt, are growing more new, rare and curious plants than elsewhere, 
in the same space, on the globe. Narrow paths separate the beds of growing 
plants, which are arranged, not like a park for the enjoyment of visitors, but like 
a work shop; for here, to those who understand, the real skill of a master hand 
is most in evidence. 

The little pollen carriers, the humming birds, the bees and butterflies, revel in 
this wonderful garden; and sometimes become bewildered, when some strange 
flower from a distant land first opens. Its form and color being unfamiliar, they 
do not know just how to approach and extract its sweetness. 

Eminent scientists and nature lovers from all lands have come to these 
grounds to study plant life. Public speakers and writers have here found their 
themes. Poets and musicians as well as artists have gathered inspiration from 
this beautiful laboratory of nature. 

"Who kneels to learn the lily's shining creed 
Grows like the lilies, liker Christ indeed, 
Thou, of all these, whom God has set apart. 
High priests of nature in the shrine of art, 
Thine are the secrets of the inn^r shrine : 
To lift the veil from Nature's face to thine ; 
To speak with reverent awe the magic spell 
That bids the wonder be a miracle ; 

Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

To break the tyrant chains of red or blue 
That binds the flower to its ancestral hue ; 
To bid the royal purple to unfold ; 
Upon the native pansy's gown of gold, 
To touch her velvet robes and bid them be 
All colors that the rainbow held in fee. 
These are the highest, holiest deeds of man, 
Completing what the soul of God began. 
A gracious gift that from a golden store 
Enriches beauty grown from more to more." 
— Samuel J. Alexander, 


The Gold Ridge proving grounds, where the more extensive work is done, 
are eight miles west of Santa Rosa, near Sebastopol. On an eastern sloping hill- 
side sixteen acres are devoted to the growing trees and plants, all in working at- 
tire, seeking perfection. Just inside the enclosure is the pretty cottage occupied 
by the superintendent of the grounds, and in which has been furnished an of- 
fice and rest room. 

The view from the place is very picturesque, overlooking the beautiful Santa 
Rosa valley, with its wooded hills and low mountains as a background and Mt. 
St. Helena purpling in the far distance. 

Narrowing bands of deepest crimson, delicate pink and many other shades 
and tints, extend from the entrance up and over the hillside. These magnificent 
flowers are the new gladioli. Wonderful new Shasta daisies glisten in the sun- 
light like banks of snow. Great flaming amaryllis, golden lilies, watsonias, 
crinums and scores of other flowering plants form lines of exquisite beauty. 

The location of each variety is designated by a small neatly painted stake; 
and all are arranged with reference to their needs in regard to soil, moisture, cul- 
tivation and test, rather than for artistic effect. 

Blackberry, raspberry, Phenomenal, Primus berry and other vines, and many 
kinds of native and foreign shrubs, are also growing in long rows, marked by 
similar wooden stakes. So familiar is the master with his pupils, that were all 
these stakes removed he would at once recognize each. But that all the work be 
scientifically accurate, plan books are also kept, having plots and maps showing 
the exact location of each class and giving its record. 

Further back are apple, pear, cherry, peach, plum and other fruit trees, to- 
gether with nut, timber and ornamental trees. Whether robed in simple green, 
bright with pink and white blossoms, rich with the many colored fruits, somber 
with the russet of autumn or with their long bare branches reaching upward, the 
trees are always beautiful. Native and foreign trees, with intermingHng boughs, 
seem to form close friendships ; loquats from Japan with figs from Italy, the ever- 
green olive and orange with those trees which clothe themselves anew each spring- 

6 Stories of Lutlicr Biirhanlts Plant School 

time. The trees from the southern hemisphere often experience considerable dif- 
ficulty in adjusting themselves to the new conditions. It was very amusing to 
watch some apple trees, sent from South America. The first fall they were in 
California, they put out tender green leaves and opened pink and white blossoms 
just as the other trees were preparing for the winter's rest. They seemed con- 
scious of having made a blunder and soon dropped these signs of springtime, yet 
were confused ; and it was two or three years before they learned the proper time 
to array themselves in the beautiful garment of spring. 

Many of the trees have small wooden labels wired to the different limbs, giv- 
ing the name of the variety which has been grafted in, sometimes several hun- 
dred upon one tree, as thousands of new varieties are constantly being tested in 
this way. 

Birds build nests, chatter and sing in the trees, feasting upon fruit, nuts, 
berries and seeds so abundant here; no doubt earning an honest living, as they 
destroy many injurious insects. Yes, little birdies, you know the earliest and 
sweetest cherries, and are quite welcome to your share. But why persist in the 
wasteful habit of taking only a bite from each one and spoiling so many that the 
master is compelled to protect any especially choice fruit by covering the tree 
with netting? 

Here is a ripening seed pod, very precious, for it the master has waited years ; 
along comes an inquisitive little bird, who wishes to try the flavor of fhose very 
seeds. Ah, ha, little bird, your habits are known, and a paper bag has been snug- 
ly tied over the seed pod. Sometimes an enterprising squirrel or rabbit comes in 
from a neighboring field for a meal of nuts or vegetables. The most unwelcome 
guests, however, are the little brown gophers. More than once have they de- 
stroyed priceless bulbs, which could not be replaced. Yet no enmity is felt by the 
master toward them ; for upon roots and bulbs must they depend for their food. 

The young trees, and those plants, which require a long time for testmg, are 
brought from the Santa Rosa experiment grounds, as much of the work begun 
there is completed here. Many workmen are constantly busy preparing and cul- 
tivating the soil, planting, trimming and training plants, seeing that sufficient 
food and water are provided, and that the health of each plant is maintained. 

Although only competent, reliable men are employed, yet each plant has 
also Burbank's personal attention ; as he alone is able to discern the slight varia- 
tions in growth or habit. Passing by a class, he often stops to tie a little white 
string around the stem of a plant in which a certain trait or quality has attracted 

The Plant School — Continued 7 

his notice and with which he wishes to become better acquainted. Or, perhaps, he 
places on a stake or a label a double cross (#). This is his ''O. K." mark ; and, 
whether upon a new fruit, an important manuscript or a piece of pie, which pleas- 
es his taste, it signifies work well done. In his use it is very comprehensive, ex- 
pressing a great deal ; as not only are fractions expressed by using only one, two 
or three lines instead of four in the cross, but two or more crosses are often used. 
At the testing season, during the long summer days, Burbank spends much 
time at Gold Ridge. As each fruit under test ripens, photographs are taken and 
a complete record is made and compared with that of previous years. The size, 
shape, quality, flavor, color, general appearance, keeping quality, hardiness, 
amount of- fruit to the tree and many other points are noted. Each year many 
badges of honor are bestowed; and each year some new fruits and flowers are 
graduated. Many more are continued for further development and training, 
while some must be rejected. 

Some of the pupils when they enter the school have only family names ; but 
in their re-creation, as they assume new forms of beauty, or of utility, they be- 
come individualized and receive an added name — a baptismal name — retaining, 
of course, their original family name. And just as they have come from' all pans 
of the world, so in their new and improved forms they go back to distant lands. 
So widely have these fruits and flowers been distributed, that it is true that, "The 
sun never sets on the Burbank productions." 

''In all places, then, and in all seasons. 

Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings, 

Teaching us, by most persuasive reason. 

How akin they are to human things." 

— Longfellow. 


He took a little jostled wayside weed — 

His intuition keen without a peer — 

And read each wound and every weakness clear ; 

Then struck his finger gently on the seed, 

And touched the slender starving wind-blown reed, 

And to it said, "Thou ailest here and here, 

Thou needest only food and loving cheer 

To gladden any garden, glen or meacl." 

He walked with Patience many a tedious hour. 

With Genius' glowing lamp aflame in hand ; 

Or sat with her in Wisdom's citadel. 

And heard the watchman calling, ''All is well;" 

Then saw the shrunken, blighted bloom expand 

Into a graceful, snowy, starry flower. 

—M. B. W. 


Thk little wild field daisy, that grew on the flower-decked green slopes 
around Luther Burbank's childhood home, was considered by the farmers an evil 
thing, a persistent and vicious weed. Burbank's great loving heart seemed to go out 
to this little forsaken thing, which, to most persons, was an intruder, not deserving 
even a place in which to live. He singled it out from the attractive flowers, that 
appealed to everyone — the violet, the aster, the delicate anemone, the golden rod, 
the trailing arbutus, the lily, the rose — not for lack of love for these ; but they had 
friends a-plenty, the daisy scarcely one. He would show it friendship, and give 
it a chance in the world to be something. 

It was like taking a little neglected orphan child, who had never been rocked 
in a fond mother's arms, or kissed to make it well. He would teach it new ways 
of which it had never known. He would love it into a royal life, make it a queen 
among its kind — this little waif. 

So Luther Burbank took his little childhood friend, the m.oon-penny daisy, 
from its home within sound of the Atlantic's roar, and placed it in his plant school 
on the Pacific coast among his rare and most choice flowers. Though his every 
hour was crowded with work, he made time to plan a glorious future for it ; and 
his interest in it held throughout the years of patient attention he gave to its de- 

In England there grew a daisy similar, but somewhat larger in size, whose 
coarseness excluded it from the royal flowers. And over in Japan still another, 
quite small, but dazzling in pure whiteness. Neither of these, however, was as 
hardy as its American cousin, so tenacious of life, nor as productive of bloom. 
But in the three — this trinity — Burbank saw an outcome most wonderful. 

The three little daisy cousins were brought together in the school of the great 
scientist; and the process of culture and development of character began. The 
American daisy furnished a strong constitution, the first essential; the English 
daisy gave size for its endowment; while the Japanese daisy contributed purity, 
which is important in the highest degree. These, when united, would give 
strength, beauty and importance. 

ip Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

Soon they blossomed, nodding and beckoning to each other, and growing to 
know each other as neighbor children do. Then Biirbank visited them, and called 
upon them for some of their golden pollen. First, he took this life element from 
the English daisy, and, carrying it upon his watch crystal, bestowed it upon the 
American daisy. He then waited until the seeds from the two united flowers rip- 
ened, which were only a few in number. These he treasured carefully until the 
time to plant them. Their great benefactor then bade farewell to these two little 
pupils, the English and the moon-penny daisy, for their life-work was done. 

He came again when the little plant children from these few seeds were 
dressed in their white gowns. This time the Japanese daisy gave him of her gold- 
en horde. He carried it in like manner to the new seedling pupils. Then the 
Japanese daisy passed, for her work was done, also. Again he must wait for the 
new pupils to ripen their seeds, and still longer, until they were planted, grew 
up, and were white with bloom ; for then selection, or choosing, which should live 
for usefulness, would begin. 

Then with loving eyes he viewed the company, and with vision keen he sin- 
gled out those which gave promise of the qualities, strength, size and whiteness, 
combined with grace of form and profusion of flowers. The others must all give 
way for their growth. The seeds from the best of these were gathered; and 
the next season the finest plant pupils were selected from the number. 

This process went on for several years, until a hundred thousand seeds were 
saved, and planted in a space about ten feet square. When large enough, they 
were transported to the Gold Ridge grounds, where they were given about an acre 
to insure plenty of room for their further development. 

All these years Luther Burbank protected his little pupils from worms, go- 
phers, and plant lice, giving them the tender care of his own hands — not trusting 
it to others, whose sympathy might be less than his — for it is a known fact that 
love calls out response in the growth of plant life, as it does the best there is in 
human life. So love rules in the plant world as it does in our own world. 

When the one hundred thousand plant pupils were well started, another im- 
portant stage in the upward life of the daisy was reached. For six months they 
blossomed. Twice a week the teacher scanned, with unequalled perceptiveness, 
bloom, stem and leaf of each individual, noting every variation from their par- 
ents. One would have a wonderful blossom on a scrubby stem, one a graceful 
long stem, but its flower would not be perfect in whiteness ; another would have 

The Story of The Shasta Daisy ii 

strength and grace, but lack beauty. Out of this large number only those that 
came nearest Burbank's ideal were allowed to live and bear seeds. 

For eight years, with patience and perseverance, he worked with his daisy. 
Sometimes a blossom would measure nearly two feet in circumference, seven 
inches from tip to tip of petal. But this was not selected. It would not stand in 
every clime, and thrive under every condition. It lacked sturdiness or substance 
of petal, and would not be able to withstand the bright sun and the storms. It 
was much like a precocious child in school. He wanted a daisy that would glad- 
den the heart of a flower-lover in Alaska, the same as it could be hailed in Flor- 
ida, Norway, or Italy — one that would flourish in all soils and all climates with 
average treatment ; for a master could not always care for it. 

So from the m.edium-sized daisies, pupils were grown and regrown, the flow- 
ers being from three to six inches in diameter; for sturdy plants only would be 
hardy, and give good keeping qualities to cut flowers. 

We have from these years of patient toil and constant care, a daisy that will 
thrive north of the arctic circle, or under the equator ; and will give, on long grace- 
ful stems, in abundance, flowers of snowy whiteness, from three to six inches in 
diameter, with a large golden center; and, when cut, will remain fresh from ten 
days to two weeks. 

This regal flower Burbank named the Shasta daisy, from the snow-capped 
peak of northern California, Shasta, meaning white, or whiteness. 

One of the peculiar habits of this wonderful new daisy is, that, unlike its 
ancestors, it never volunteers, or seeds itself, producing only a few large seeds ; 
therefore it never has and never will become the pest that it was in the wild. A 
self-sown daisy has never been found in the plant school. The teacher's work there 
is not only to breed in good qualities, but to eliminate bad ones. The daisy was in- 
duced to drop her one bad habit of spreading in the course of her education. 

To the achievement of this stately daisy Burbank has added a double daisy, 
by selection alone; choosing each year those that showed a tendency to become 
double. The petals crowded closer and closer together as the selections were 
made each year, until a pure white, perfectly double blossom was obtained ; a more 
than rival of the chrysanthemum, as the daisy blooms from five to seven months 
in the year. 

Three strains of this daisy were perfected — the Alaska, the California, and 
the Westralia. Another, newer still, is a beautiful fringed daisy far finer eveix 
than any of the others. 


A GOOD many years ago there came to the plant school two queer pupils. 
One, little Simoni, was a plum pupil from China ; and the other, little Triflora, 
was a prune pupil from Japan. They were quite lonely at first, and felt strange, 
for everything was so different to anything they had ever been near before. 

Simoni was a very funny little fellow, and produced fruit that, though 
spoken of as a plum, was shaped more like a flat tomato, and was so bitter that 
it puckered one's mouth all up, as an unripe persimmon would. 

But the oddest thing about it was that it had almost no pollen at all on its 
anthers. It was hard to find even a few grains. Burbank had once found some ; 
for you must know that he could find it if anyone could. These few grains he 
used in creating the Delaware plum, one of the parents of the Bartlett plum. 

Now the Bartlett plum is a very distinguished pupil, for it has the exact 
flavor of a delicious Bartlett pear. Indeed, to prove this, one of the foremost 
fruit men of the world was blindfolded and given some of the fruit to taste ; and, 
not knowing what kind of fruit he was eating, said, "It is the finest Bartlett pear 
I have ever tasted." It is also very attractive otherwise, having an upright, erect 
form, and beautiful, glossy, green leaves. The fruit is yellow, turning to deep 
crimson when fully ripe. It is firm and juicy, with salmon-colored flesh. 

So the scientist saw the good in little Simoni, and knew that it would be 
of still further use in the world, if properly trained. 

Triflora was a more lovable child, with a much sweeter disposition ; and 
felt better acquainted, for other pupils from Japan had been trained in the plant 
school. You know that children tell each other about their school days, and any- 
thing new that they have seen and enjoyed, so perhaps Triflora had heard more 
about it than Simoni had. 

The other Japanese pupils had been very helpful in making many kinds of 
new plums of different sizes, colors, flavors and qualities, that had gone out 
from the school to make the world richer and happier. There was quite a 
corner given to their improvement, for there were so many of them. Five hun- 
dred kinds had grown together on one big plum tree, at one time, and three 

The Climax Plum 13 

hundred thousand are now growing in the Gold Ridge training school, at Se- 

When March came all the plum trees were white with bloom, shedding 
their petals like snowflakes, and filling the air with sweet odors. Simoni and 
Triflora flaunted their white blossoms, too, and gave out a delightful fragrance, 
doing all they could to show their gladness that spring was coming. 

The wise one then came to give them personal aid and instructions. First, 
he took out his microscope and examined Simoni's flowers. Yes, there were a 
few grains of pollen — a very few. He carefully gathered the anthers on a watch 
crystal, and put them, in a safe place to dry until the morrow. 

He was out early in the morning, when the bees began to hum, preparing 
the blossoms of Triflora to receive the precious grains of golden dust. When he 
had finished, and placed tags upon the fertilized blooms he left them in the 
care of Mother Nature until the fruit should ripen. Their pits would then be 
labeled, and saved for the next year's work in training. 

When tiny plant pupils from these pits were growing happily the master 
came again, this time to examine them for the selection of the best. His keen 
eye ran rapidly along the rows. Only about a score of leaves were on the slen- 
der stems ; but if he found one whose leaves were larger, smoother, or that had a 
more even margin, or a stronger petiole on one than on others, it would, he knew, 
be almost sure to bear either a larger, a sweeter, or a firmer sort of plum. It re- 
ceived his badge of honor. There were only a few of the elect, the others — all the 
others — were sent out of the proving grounds. 

The selected ones need not wait six or seven years to bear fruit to prove 
themselves worthy ; for Burbank does not do things that way. Oh,- no. The skill- 
ed workmen took them from their little beds, and tenderly placed them on the 
sturdy arms of a full-grown plum tree, so that they would only have to wait one 
or two years to bloom and bear fruit, saving much valuable time in their school 

Among these little plant children of Simoni and Triflora, that grew so 
beautifully, rocking and swinging in the gentle breezes, admiring each other 
all the while, basking in the sunshine and drinking in the showers, were 
several that bore fruit of rare flavor. But there was one especially that would 
even fill a room with its delightful fragrance, like that of a pineapple. And 
when it was eaten, one could think of nothing but bananas, it was so delicious. 
Burbank was so elated with the qualities of tliis little child that he enthusiastic- 

14 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

ally exclaimed, "This is the CHmax !" And now it is known as the Climax plum 
everywhere, for it has proven to be one of the finest shipping plums in the whole 
world. It is sometimes spoken of as the "king of plums," owing to its extreme 
earliness, and its immense sized fruit, which is heart-shaped, deep, dark red in 
color, with rich yellow flesh. 


Luthe:r Burbank stood in the open near his home one bright spring morn- 
ing admiring the beauties of nature around him. There were wild flowers 
everywhere, and such gorgeous groupings, — deHcate nestHng baby-blue-eyes, 
fragrant white forget-me-nots, purple larkspurs, snowy meadow foam, all woven 
and interwoven into one great rug. The upland ran one sea of gold, — Cali- 
fornia poppies, lifting their molten chalices to the sun, smiled upon him. His eye, 
lit with tender enthusiasm, feasted long upon them. He stooped to caress some 
of the yellow petals near his feet saying : 

"This beautiful dress of bright golden hue which you have worn so long 
is very becoming to you and exceedingly appropriate to this land of perpetual 
sunshine. But Miss Golden Cup if you would sometimes adorn yourself in a 
dress of white, pale cream, pink or crimsbn, we would love you still better than 
we do." 

Suddenly his practiced eye caught a crimson hair-like ray on one golden petal 
as if Mother Nature had made a mistake in using her carmine dye. The scientist 
immediately resolved to form a poppy class in the plant school. He protected 
this plant from intruders and shielded it until the seeds ripened. He knew that 
he must be alert if he would get the seeds so he placed a paper bag over the 
ripening pod. 

All the Eschscholtzia family have taught their pods to pop suddenly open 
when thoroughly ripe, thus scattering the seeds so that the young plants may 
have more room and fertile soil for homes. When the seed pod bursts it makes 
a loud noise and the California children say, ''Miss Poppy is firing her pistol." 

The Ecshscholtzia is intensely bitter, therefore has few foes to war upon 
it. It is said to be more avoided by slugs than any other plant. 

The seeds, from the poppy with crimson ray, were sown in the plant school. 
Soon young Eschscholtzia pupils peeped through the soil. Leaves and buds ap- 
peared, which were soon followed by golden flower cups. 

Little Miss Eschscholtzia is a quaint maiden who wears a peculiar green 
pointed cap like a Brownie's toboggan. This is adorned with a delicate frill 

i6 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

which has a rose-hued edge. She doffs this cap before making her bow to the 
world, then spreads out her yellow satin gown and dances in the sunshine. She 
is not only quaint but wise as well, for when the fog blows in, or the rain ap- 
proaches, she folds her garment tightly about her, lest her beautiful sheen be 
spoiled or her golden dust injured. 

These little Eschscholtzia maidens were being taught to change the color of 
their gowns, so when examination day came the master put white ties around 
the stem, close up to the blossom of those who seemed to be trying to obey his 

The workmen knew, when they saw these ties, that plants wearing them, 
must be carefully watched and their seeds saved, while their sisters with the ac- 
customed golden dresses must be rejected. 

How proud these plant pupils surely felt as they stood erect with snowy ties 
around their little necks, — a reward of merit never before given to one of their 

The second year, thousands of Eschscholtzia pupils were in the school. Soon 
they spread their bright petals to the breeze, and to most people were not unlike 
their brothers and sisters in the field. The master came again with the badge 
of honor, white neckties. Many of the pupils were like their ancestors and waved 
their saucy yellow heads as if to say: "The Spanish fathers called me Copa de 
oro. I represent the great gold fields of California. I am the State's adopted 
flower. I have stood for centuries weaving the golden sunshine into the meshes 
of my gown. I'm not going to change my beautiful dress of gold." Burbank, 
however, passed these saucy ones by and found some more obedient, they nad 
crimson in their petals. These were chosen and promoted. 

For eight years this selection went on, and a beautiful crimson poppy is the 
result. Since this time, through selection, other varieties have evolved, until 
now we find little Eschscholtzia maidens in all kinds of beautiful dresses. Some 
are snow white, others range from Hght cream to straw color. Many are a deep 
purplish crimson, while others have decided to wear pure crimson with golden 
yellow for trimmings. 

Eschscholtzias of these colors and shades are now being graduated from 
the plant school and enjoyed by people throughout the world, while the golden 
blossoms continue, as before, to burnish the hills and valleys of California. 


'Xkt us out ! please let us out !" pleaded a chorus of wee, wee voices from the 
envelope. "We are so dry that we feel as if the Hfe within us were perishing/' 

The seal was broken and the tiny berry seeds v/ere poured into the palm 
of the scientist's hand. Just a few seeds, from a peculiar blackberry, sent by 
an unknown friend in the East ! The letter was short, only a few words, but the 
master knew that the seeds might contain a prize, so he folded the letter care- 
fully and placed it among his choice messages. The berry seeds were taken to 
the kindergarten department of the plant school. 

Here they were given a warm bed of earth in which to lie. The master 
knew they would be happy in the lap of Mother Nature for she gives light, 
moisture, air, and plant food needed to strengthen her children. 

Summer with her glow of warmth and mellow sunshine was fast approach- 
ing, when the teacher decided to give his new pupils their first test. To his sur- 
prise and delight he found that some had small slender arms that were almost 
smooth. These were allowed to remain in the school. The next year when they 
were clad in white they looked very beautiful. Soon small, green, gnarly berries 
took the place of the snowy blooms, and later, v/hen the fruit was ripe, it was 
nearly as hard, knotty and tasteless as when it was green. The master, now, un- 
derstood well that the task of making his pupils of the envelope perfect would 
be a difficult one, still he persevered. 

Seeds were saved and the following spring the kindergarten was crowded 
with more young berry pupils. There was one advantage in this particular class 
over the classes of Rubus that had been graduated. These could be selected in the 
kindergarten. Their promotions were made on their willingness to leave off 
their weapons of defense, so the little fellows had to undergo the test. When 
one was found that appeared to be making a desperate struggle to free himself 
from thorns, he was given a place in the Gold Ridge school. 

Now, in the education of the Phenomenal, which is a luscious berry 
somewhat the shape and color of the Logan berry, but larger, firmer and much 
sweeter, the master had to train many thousands of plants and wait until they 

i8 Stories of Luther Bnrhank's Plant School 

ripened fruit before making selections, but year after year for several years thorn- 
less vines were promoted from the kindergarten, finally twenty thousand or more 
berry scouts had lain down their arms and stood in great ranks in the Gold Ridge 
school, an honor to their teacher and a blessing to all boys and girls, who have 
received the stab of the sharp thorns on the blackberry vines. 

Thornless surely feels proud when the world's great scientists, who visit 
the school, take his long, slender, smooth arms in their hands, place these green 
arms against their cheeks, stroke his glossy coat, and praise him for his beauty 
and for the delight he is to bring to the world. To these words of encourage- 
ment the master replies : "He is not perfect yet, more time is needed." 

Thornless has been in the school for twelve years ; he has had the constant 
care of the master. He could, no doubt, have been trained to produce good fruit 
by constantly selecting the best, but where there is a shorter road to the goal Bur- 
bank always chooses that road. 

The choicest black berries have been chosen, pollen has been taken from 
these and with it the blossoms of the best thornless have been crossed. Selections 
of the best are again made and so the process continues until now, 1913, the ber- 
ries of thornless vines have attained a superior flavor, and in size equal the other 
cultivated varieties. 

How soon this pupil will be graduated is not at present made known, but 
when commencement day has passed and he bids good-bye to his Alma Mater all 
children will hail with delight the advent of Thornless. 

How much of the future profit and pleasure would have been lost to mankind 
had Burbank destroyed the few seeds of the envelope cannot be estimated at the 
present time. The work of changing all our berries to thornlessness is progress- 
ing, it is yet in its infancy. 


The^re: was in the plant school a society of flower pupils who were united by 
a mutual bond of sympathy. Some had entered for training along one special 
line, and others along another ; but they were alike in one respect. They lacked 
the sweet odor, which appeals to everyone, and which many of the more favored 
flowers possessed. 

Now, the fragrance is the spirit of the flower ; and v/ithout spirit, you must 
know, one can accomplish but little. 

One of these, the dahlia, seemed to shrink from contact with the others, and 
did not care to be touched ; for it had long since learned that it lacked the one 
crowning quality, fragrance. 

In fact, it had often heard remarks like this : ''What a pity the dahha has no 
fragrance!" ''What a delightful perfume the violet has!" "How refreshing 
these sweet peas are!" 

Naturally it was a little jealous and envious; but it was seemingly so help- 
less that it must be pardoned this weakness. 

Year by year Burbank had noted its development in becoming more beauti- 
ful and more hardy; and from time to time dahlias from other lands had been in- 
troduced to assist in improving the style of her dress, and its rich colorings. 

One day she heard the teacher say, "The dahlia is such a fascinating child to 
teach. I wish I could persuade her to become fragrant. She is very responsive, 
so I am still hoping that she will obey me in this." 

Then this little dejected pupil took courage, and began to send up silent ap- 
peals to the wise one for help, promising to do all she could to help herself. And 
when she put this promise into effect, she felt something awakening within her, 
for new vibrations were thrilling her through and through. Her longings were, 
perhaps, the most intense of any flower-child in the school — her pleas the strong- 

The dahlia was surely a delight to look upon. Her dress was neatly made, 
its texture was fine and rich, while its colors were always pleasing. Single dahlias 
Avere too charming in appearance to be compared to anything. So she was known 

20 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

as a coarse flower only for lack of fragrance. She would be so happy and useful 
if this fault could be corrected. You know the bee is the happy guest of most 
flowers, but she was less attractive to them, though she waved her bright ban- 
ners as they hummed by. 

There was a touch of pride in the single dahlia, for it had heard Burbank 
say to a visitor one day, "I like single dahlias better," and touching the long 
graceful stem, he added, "See this stem; it is three feet long. I have worked a 
long time to give it this long and strong, but slender stem." 

Sometime after this, as he was passing the dahlia proving plot, there came 
to him a faint, elusive fragrance, which was very sweet. He felt quite sure his 
hopes were coming true — that the dahlia would attain the perfume she so much 
desired, and be promoted to the class of fragrant flowers. 

He sought out the one flower that gave forth the fragrance, and guarded it 
until the seeds should ripen, which in due time were carefully planted. 

Some of the little seedling pupils gave a hint of perfume like the rich mag- 
nolia blossom from their first flowers. These were jealously protected and cared 
for by the master-prover, while he kindly dismissed those that gave no sign of 
improvement in fragrance. 

For several years he gave them special attention, selecting and planting only 
the seeds from the fragrant flowers. Finally the full reward came — the prayer of 
the dahlia was answered, for one had the full, sweet fragrance of the magnolia. 

The dahlia was thus given a rare and lasting perfume by intelligent selection 
alone, under the direction of a great creative mind. 

The verbena, which was scentless most often, but sometimes having an un- 
pleasant odor, pleaded for fragrance, also. It was a lovable child otherwise, al- 
ways clothed in dainty, delicate colors. 

At the close of a summer day, as Burbank was walking among his plant 
pupils, he paused by the verbena plot; for there was wafted to him from their 
midst, on the soft evening air, a faint perfume. A thrill of deUght ran through 
his very being. He eagerly examined every bloom, hoping to find the dear little 
one that had greeted him with a response to his oft made request. But no — tlifc 
shy maiden had hidden herself, and with a feeling of great disappointment he 
moved slowly on. 

A whole year passed, and, on just such a balmy evening, in the dusk, the fra- 
grance came to him again, as he neared the plot. 

This time the search should be more thorough. He would see to it that she 

Fragrance 21 

did not elude him. Stooping closely, he plucked bloom after bloom; for you 
must know that they are lowly in their ways. 

At last he came upon the one that had swung her censer so lightly, sending 
out a faint, sweet fragrance — a suggestion of the arbutus when it first opens its 
spicy blooms. You may be sure that he marked well his treasure, and encouraged 
it to put forth stronger efforts ; and, when its seeds were ripe, they were labeled 
and placed in security until the season for planting came. 

From that time, for several years, a selection of the most fragrant flowers, 
from the offspring of this verbena pupil, was made, closely watched, and tender- 
ly cared for. The fragrance became more and more intensified with each year's 
selection ; and finally one was found to have the full sweet fragrance of the trail- 
ing arbutus firmly fixed ; and was given the baptismal name, "Mayflower," Vv^hich 
is the common name of the trailing arbutus. This little maiden wore the same 
dainty pink dress that has always adorned the arbutus, and was well named for 
both fragrance and color. 

The next one in this society to have its prayers for fragrance answered was 
a calla, or richardia. It had no odor, but was otherwise a universal favorite. The 
scientist had already given many years to its training. He had changed its size, 
and the color of its dress had assumed many tints and shades. She patiently 
awaited the time when the spirit should be the crowning of her school work. 
Then she would be able to go forth into the world fully equipped. The reward 
came, as it does to all who earnestly seek it. This calla now lifts her urn with 
stately pride to those who love her, and gladdens them with a refreshing per- 

This docile child Burbank appropriately calls "Fragrance," and delights in the 
great profusion of her blooms. 

This society is now a happy company, shedding refining and elevating in- 
fluence everywhere. And oh, how gently the work of training was done ! No 
harsh treatment, but kindly care and earnest sympathetic insight, guiding Nature 
into right paths, as a tender parent guides the footsteps of a little child. 


Six little immigrants from across the wide ocean coming to 
"The land of the free 
And the home of the brave." 
They came on the long journey, half around the globe, to be educated and de- 
veloped in the plant schooL 

Oh, how tired, thirsty and cramped they were, after such a long journey 
closely packed in a tightly sealed tin box. It was hoped that they would sleep 
all the way, just as many plants lie dormant during cold winter months; so prob- 
ably they knew little of the experiences of the journey. 

They were brave little fellows to come at the master's request ; for once be- 
fore some members of their family made the attempt and perished on the way. 
Although the climate of Australia is not greatly different from that of Santa 
Rosa, yet the travelers had to pass through the tropical regions and to remain 
more than a month in close confinement. 

The master, who was awaiting the coming of the new people, eagerly broke 
the seal and opened their prison house, tenderly examining each, placed it in damp 
mellow earth. 

Soon these six little rhubarb plants began to expand, becoming very wide 
awake, sending up green leaves on beautiful crimson stalks. Once established in 
the plant school, they proved to be very promising pupils. Although the crimson 
stalks were scarcely larger than a pencil, they were ready for use months before 
the larger varieties with green stalks made their appearance. 

The master determined to combine this little crimson rhubarb with the then 
commonly grown rhubarb, which is larger and has a very pungent acid, hoping 
thus to obtain something superior. So when blossoms appeared — tiny, greenish 
crimson, feathery flowers on tall stems — he made the experiment, but none of 
these seedling plants were up to the desired standard. 

Then selection alone was continued from year to year ; the one plant having 
the qualities he sought was chosen from among thousands of seedlings, until the 
Crimson Winter Rhubarb, which has made fortunes for so many small farmers, 
was obtained. 

The Little Immigrants 23 

The process of testing for selection, in every case, requires the nicest discrim- 
ination: as so many points must be considered. Stalks from several of what ap- 
peared to be the most promising plants were numbered, cut, labeled and taken 
to the kitchen. Each was cooked separately that its flavor might be tested and 
compared, also the time required in cooking, the amount of sugar needed, and so 
forth. Each was served separately at the master's table. Fruits and vegetables 
are often thus tested in the Burbank home ; sometimes each potato on the dinner 
table will be of a different kind, or corn or peas of a certain variety are served 
one day and another kind the following day that accurate comparison may be 
made. Every hour of the master's is made to count in the service of humanity ; 
even guests as well as members of the household often have a part in deciding 
what fruit or vegetables shall be given to the world. 

This test at regular meals is much pleasanter than the testing of fruit 
on vines or trees. Perhaps you think it would be great fun to accompany the 
master, as with a helper he goes rapidly along a row of vines laden with luscious 
ripe berries taking a berry from each plant and noting its flavor and quality. But 
you would soon become very tired of tasting and would wish you had brought 
a cracker or a few nuts in your pocket. Very few persons can stand this tasting 
of fruit for more than a few minutes at a time. Burbank, who is as keen in ap- 
preciation of flavors as in his observation of forms and colors, tastes rapidly and 
will continue the process for a considerable time. The process of testing fruits in 
the field is quite different as you can see from eating it at your leisure and for 
your pleasure. 

Although the Crimson Winter Rhubarb was so superior in beauty and quali- 
ty, a plant of greater size was desired, and selection was continued a few years, 
tmtil the New Giant Crimson Winter Rhubarb was developed. This has been 
often termed '*the mortgage lifter." No vegetable of equal value has been intro- 
duced for many years. It is welcomed as a winter and spring dainty coming early 
in the season when a mild acid is craved and fruit is scarce. Its beauty of appear- 
ance, its delightful flavor and its health-giving quality make it a general favorite. 
It will not stand the extreme cold of the north ; but is readily grown in any mild 
climate. Carloads are each year shipped into the markets of the northern and 
eastern states in the early winter and spring from California and Florida. 

The Crimson Winter Rhubarb in its new and improved form has returned 
to Australia to be grown in large quantities. It now flourishes in the royal gar- 
dens of England and Japan, and has made its way around the world. 


What a time they must have had getting acquainted — those fifty pupils ! 
Some of them had come from the tropics and some from the Frigid zone. There 
were the tigers, the Alpines, the Auratums ; and, I could not tell you all, for 
som.e were great strangers. But there were tall lihes and tiny lilies of every 
shade and color. 

It had been thought such a difficult task to train the lily, that no one before 
Luther Burbank had given the subject much attention. Indeed, some had said, 
*'It is no use — the lily cannot be taught." But he had faith in the intelligence of 
this favorite flov/er and believed it would respond to his love and care, and re- 
w^ard his efforts, even if it should require a great deal of his valuable time to 
teach it. The idea of the lily, of all flowers, not desiring a high education ! 

So here they found themselves in the plant school, in a most delightful Cali- 
fornia climate, where they could all be together in the open, and enjoy the fra- 
grant breezes and the glorious sunshine, and just grow and grow. 

Some of them had known little of outdoor life before, having been shut up 
in the stuffy air of a hot-house. Some had grown in the cold north, and others 
in milder climes. What a joy to revel in the blamy air and to drink in the dew, 
with no fear of being withered by heat or pinched with drought or cold. 

Sweetest incense was breathed forth by some of them, while most of them 
had no odor at all. 

They w^ere an odd looking lot in form and color — no two alike. The Cali- 
fornia lilies felt their importance, we are sure ; for they were at home, and all 
the others were their guests. Then, too, they were to assist their teacher^ largely, 
is training the strangers to new ways. Little Miss Washington, courtsying low, 
was very proud of her fragrant white dress. Mr. Tiger, in his speckled brown 
coat, tried to be very entertaining, while the graceful brown lily chimed her mis- 
sion bells. Miss R-uby, the tall, stately mountain lily, in her shellpink gown, 
bowed to each in turn, swinging her censer of perfume, which is said to be the 
finest in the vv^hole world. Each tried to outvie the other in the reception of their 

The Lily Pupils 25 

guests ; for but one thought was there, and it was this : We will make them happy 
in their new home. 

They all remained in the plant school at Santa Rosa until the primary work 
in poUenation was completed, then the Gold Ridge grounds became their home. 

This is a sunny, beautiful slope, away from the noise and tumult of the 
city, with blue mountains in the distance and carpets of wild flowers everywhere. 

The school seemed already full of hundreds of kinds of fruit and flower 
children. These are the proving grounds, and one must be found worthy, or be 
suspended from the school. Two acres, however were given the lilies in which to 
receive their higher training. 

PoUenation here was a very great task, for thousands of lilies were soon 
growing from the seeds planted. Sometimes Burbank emerged from among 
them almost covered with brown and yellow dust, bearing in his hand a large 
quantity of the fertile grains of pollen for further culture. The planting con- 
tinued until more than a million Hly pupils were in the school. 

In June, when the blooming season came, a rare mingling of odor per- 
meated the air — thousands of odors blended into one. Nothing like it had ever 
been known before in the whole world. 

The people of the Gold Ridge section wondered and wondered what it could 
be ; and they came from all around to investigate the cause. As the}^ came nearer 
and nearer, such a mass of oriental colors spread out before them as they had 
never before even dreamed of. When they came close, the lilies nodded and 
nodded, and swung their censers, bidding them to behold their beautiful color- 
ings and quaint forms, for nothing in the Hly world could compare with them. 
Each lily seemed to do its best in appreciation of what the teacher had done 
for it. 

Some had only one petal tightly rolled up ; some had two petals like the 
wings of a gorgeous butterfly ; others had three, four, or five petals ; while most 
of them had six, as the other lilies have. 

There were all colors, shading from, white, or palest straw color, to the 
deepest yellow, orange, crimson or brown; and there were spotted and speckled 
ones — all mingling with the different shades of the green foliage. Their stems 
were from six inches to eight feet in height, some having a single stem, others 
branching ones. A few bore as many as fifty flowers on one stalk ; and there was 
one that seemed to outdo all the rest in its profusion of blooms, for it carried 

26 Stones of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

ninety-one flowers on a four-foot stalk. The bulbs were as great a study as 
were the blooms, differing greatly in color, form and size. 

One of the best lily experts in the world said, upon visiting them, "I see 
liere at least two hundred and fifty thousand distinct new hybrid lilies." What 
a great lesson in Nature's book of variation ! 

Out of all that vast array, Burbank selected fifty that came up to his ideal — 
that had rewarded his tireless labors by being obedient to his requests of them. 

"Can my thoughts be imagined," said Burbank, "after twenty-six years of 
care and labor, as I walked among them on a dewy morning, and looked upon 
these new forms of beauty upon which other eyes had never gazed? Here a 
plant six feet high with bright yellow blooms, beside it one only six inches high 
witli darkest red flowers ; farther on one pale straw, or snowy w^hite, or with 
curious dots or shadings. Same deliciously fragrant, others faintly so; some 
with upright flowers, others with nodding ones; some with dark green, woolly 
leaves in whorls, others with polished, light green lance-like scattered ones. 

"As the fresh dew-laden petals of these new creations, which had never 
been spread out to the light of day, were unrolled before me, a new world of 
beauty seemed to have been found, and a full recompense for all the care be- 
stowed upon them." 

The lily training still goes on with the fifty chosen ones. Sometime we may 
tell you about other wonderful children that come from this department of tiie 
Burbank plant school, for there are sure to be others. 


One of the first joys that came into Luther Burbank's life was his mother's 
flcwer garden. Here the bright butterfly-wing and the flashing rose-petal 
caught his childish eye, and he was quickly drawn into sympathy with the flower 
world. The mother used to tell this story of his babyhood: 

"One morning, as his attention was directed to an especially beautiful blos- 
som, a humming bird, on busy wing, began sipping its nectar from the fuchsia. 
In an instant the baby hands had caught and was holding the bird, while in a 
distressed tone he was crying, 'Birdie eat flower ! Birdie eat flower !' " 

When it was explained to him that the bird was not injuring the flower but 
only taking the food that nature had placed there for its use very quickly was 
it allowed to go unharmed, and ever afterwards the visits of birds, bees and but- 
terflies became to the child an added pleasure. 

As months and years passed, flowers were more and more his companions. 
In early spring he saw the bulbs, which had lain all winter apparently lifeless in 
the cellar, placed in the ground ; then he watched the first tiny green shoots as 
they appeared above the surface. With eager eye he followed their growth each 
day until iris, golden daffodil, and scarlet tulip gladdened his heart. 

He learned that the tiny seeds of the poppies, balsams, phlox, asters and 
other annuals were sown in boxes and carefully shielded from storm and cold 
until the soil had been warmed by the summer sun and the little plant had be- 
come strong enough to be transplanted into the ground, while the seeds of the 
hardier nasturtiums and sweet peas were early planted in the open garden. 

The geraniums, fuchsias, heliotrope and other potted plants, which standing 
in the deep window seat, had bloomed all winter, were also set in the garden. 
At the same time he observed the swelling buds of the lilac, rose and jasamine, 
that had so valiantly withstood the cold of the New England winter. Much care 
and work were expended upon the garden but the labor was well repaid for 
all summer the harvest of blossoms continued. 

Fragrant pinks, amid a mass of pale green foliage, red and white poppies, 
modest verbenas, time-honored sweet William, and drooping columbine welcomed 

28 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

the flitting- hiimniiiig bird and the fairy-winged butterfly. Purple morning glories 
smiled a sweet good morning. Great glowing sunflowers, serving as time keep- 
ers, following the sun in his course across the sky ; gracefully swinging blue and 
white canterberry bells chimed vespers at eventide, while all day long bright- 
faced pansies welcomed the guests to the home. 

A clump of stately St. Joseph lilies, the admiration of all, occupied the 
center of the garden. Near by stood scarlet blushing peonies with bended heads. 
Velvety marigolds, little bee larkspurs, purple monk's hood, many colored zin-- 
nias, mourning bride, and bachelor button filled the space which was bordered 
with sweet alyssum and blue-eyed forget-me-nots. Along the walk were brilliant 
dazzling portulaccas and dainty snow flakes. Further back could be seen the 
freckled faces of tiger lilies, also tall stalks of hollyhock, set with rows of red, 
white, and yellow flowers. Near the gate a clump of tritoma with golden spikes 
stood like sentinels keeping watch. 

In this home garden, no doubt, more seeds of industry, perseverance, and 
love of nature were sown in the mind of the child, than were scattered flower 
seeds in fertile soil. 

When the boy became the naturalist the quaint old fashioned flowers of his 
childhood home were not forgotten, but were welcomed to the plant school in 

Many of these flowers have been transformed through training until they 
are now almost unrecognizable. The flame-colored tritoma, which in the mild 
climate of California blooms in winter, has been combined with the yellow, which 
blooms only in summer and now there is a new class of tritomas of many 
colors which are almost constant bloomers, having a more graceful and less war- 
like appearance than their ancestors. Already they are becoming favorites for 
decorative purposes. The Chinese pink has, by constant selection, been improved 
in size and beauty of flower, and many new colors have been added. One pre- 
sents a solid mass of snowy whiteness when the plant is in full bloom. 

The morning glory and sweet pea have been under training. They have both 
increased in beauty, while to the sweet pea has been added a much greater frag- 
rance than it formerly had. In the petunia class are seen many satiny-fringed 
flowers of the most beautiful rose pink. Dahlias, both double and single have 
received much attention at the Santa Rosa school and several distinguished grad- 
uates have gone out into the flower world. 

The canna at one time form_ed a large class in the school. Cannas from 

The New England Garden ' 29 

France and from Italy were mingled with the American varieties, and after many 
years of training and selection two exceptionally fine cannas were graduated, one 
having abundant spikes of rich crimson, another, clear yellow orchid-like flowers. 
The bee larkspur in the New England garden was always in blouse of simple 
blue and was scarcely more pretentious than the wild larkspur which grows in 
the fields and by the roadside. Although many years had passed when larkspurs 
were admitted to the plant school the prevailing color of dress was still blue. The 
master wishing the friend of his childhood to don more pleasing colors, planted 
thousands of seeds and year after year selection continued until now the new 
larkspurs, as they are called, or delphiniums, stand as one of the most exquisite 
flowers. Among a collection of the world's choicest delphiniums these Gold Ridge 
graduates are unequaled. Red and blue, which in flowers is a -very rare com- 
bination of colors, are delicately blended in its azure blossoms, which are many 
times larger and more graceful than of old. 



When the amaryllis entered school the hardy ones, the ones that could live, 
in the open, wore simple unattractive colors. Those that had lived indoors in 
conservatories were larger and more beautiful but were exceedingly fragile, and 
when taken into the sunshine they seemed famished, failing to be revived even 
when moistened with refreshing dew drops. 

The most beautiful blossoms were only four or five inches across, having 
six quite narrow petals. The stamens were long, slender, and weak, the foliage, 
narrow. The bulbs, ordinarily, were about the size of small apples usually 
having one stalk to a bulb and two or three flowers to the stalk. A plant seldom 
produced more than one new bulb each season. Seeds were not commonly 
planted as it required from four to five years for a plantlet to mature, bloom, and 
prove its quality. The blooming period extended over a few weeks in early 

Some of the pupils came from South Africa, a large number from mild- 
tropical, and semi-tropical regions of Central and South America, while those 
from the conservatories were grown in different parts of Europe and the United 
States of America, but from whatever clime they were known by unpronounce- 
able Latin names. There were A. Johnsoni. A. Vitata, A. Regina, A. Gigantea, 
A. Sarniensis and others. 

These amaryllis pupils were patiently trained. It was eight or ten years 
before the master could observe much improvement, but when he fully under- 
stood their habits large quantities of seeds resulted. These were planted and 
frequently there were many thousand amaryllis pupils in the school at one time. 
The delicate hot house plants combined with those more hardy, and those with 
beautiful blossoms mingled with the dull uninviting ones. 

When the master succeeded in producing a beautiful, hardy, vigorous class 
he continued to train for an earlier, larger, and more abundant bloom and to 
lengthen the blooming period. The earliest bloomers were promoted. Those that 
were the first and continued to bloom the longest won the prize. Still the teacher 
was not satisfied, his pupils must resist disease and ill treatment, and must pro- 

The Sunset Class 31 

dnce many bulbs. Choice conservatory bulbs were sold at from one to five dol- 
lars each, consequently, only the wealthier people could enjoy the blossoms. The 
master's desire is that everyone may enjoy all beautiful flowers, so selections 
were made until many young bulbs were found on one amaryliis plant. Each of 
these new bulbs, when planted produced two or three strong stalks, and each 
stalk bore from three to six beautiful flowers which often measured from six 
to nine inches across ; the thick wide petals numbering six to eight, were one to 
three inches wide, and amaryliis blossoms were enjoyed from early spring to 
mid summer. 

Training for beauty of dress and variety of colors, shades, flakes and trim- 
mings were considered throughout the entire course. 

The master of the plant school prefers simple English names for his grad- 
uates and v/e are sure that every boy and girl who reads these stories will be glad 
he has given his graduates names that are easy to pronounce. There were so 
many in the amaryliis class of 1909, however, that he decided not to give them 
separate names but to number them, and to call them "The New Giant Amaryllis." 

The farewell reception tendered the amaryliis class will be long remembered 
in the history of the plant school. The color scheme in the gowns worn by the 
one hundred and thirty-six graduates was beautiful beyond description. We have 
chosen to portray not the most exquisite but those wherein lie the greatest con- 
trast. One wore clear, fiery scarlet with narrow, white stripes at the base of the 
robe, another, white, overspread with shadings of pink, crimson, and scarlet. 
There was a snow white dress lightly lined with crimson, also a dress of bril- 
liant red. One was of fiery crimson with ribbons of white and another, clear, 
velvety carmine with broad, white bands. One scarlet gown was exquisite, having 
deep crimson and rosy shadings with crimson and white bands, and there was a 
beautiful flame red costume with blendings of faint pink and white. One costume 
was pure red, flaked with white, another was flame scarlet with short white bands. 

A tall graceful graduate wore a rich shade of vermillion with bands of green- 
ish white, while a shorter pupil chose white and pink almost evenly divided in 
pencilings, shadings and flakes. 

A general favorite was beautiful in a unique suit, striped and shaded with 
rosy crimson, purple and white. Another, almost as popular, was gorgeous in 
crimson, slightly tinged pink, heavily banded, dotted and flaked with white. 

One of the sm.allest graduates was beautiful in snow white, lightly laced 
and lined with crimson and edged with bands of crimson, while one, a little larger, 

32 Stories of Luther Bnrhank's Plant School 

chose pure scarlet crimson with faint purplish shadings and short greenish white 

There was a bright, scarlet gown with broad bands and featherings of 
white, a velvety carmine with white bands at base ; and a pure white, beautifully, 
but slightly edged, and lined with shaded carmine ; a deep satiny crimson lake 
with undertone of scarlet and narrow white bands; a white with tinge of Nile 
green, striped and edged with crimson; and a light crimson, with undertone of 
salmon, shadings of deeper crimson irregularly striped white. All these gowns 
were beautiful. 

Queen Rose attended the reception. Clad in all the beauty of a smiling 
spring she sat upon her throne of Nature's green with the blue ethereal arch as 
her canopy. Even in all her loveliness the Queen must witness the departure of 
a class unequaled in gorgeousness of dress, for since the establishment of the 
school no class had left its corridors in such splendid array. 

When beholding a gorgeous sunset with its varied delicate shades and bril- 
liant colorings one may catch a glimpse of that splendor which was woven into 
the gowns of the sunset class. 



Like: most wild plants, the Beach plum family had a hard, fierce struggle for 
existence, and its energies were taxed to the utmost. Some of them even had 
to grow thorns for protection; and others had to crowd together in thickets so 
close that it was hard to find an opening between them. 

The eastern part of the United States was its home. It was called ''Little 
Beach" there, because it lived near the shore that was sometimes submerged by 
the sea. It was also found on dry rocky soils as well ; yet it managed to live and 
bear fruit under the most trying conditions. 

The fruit which it produced was no larger than a cherry, and was mostly, 
pit, there being only a thin layer of flesh between the pit and the skin. 

The ambition of this little, lean, skinny outcast was to be made tame, and 
to be better fed, so that it could grow to be plump and fat. 

All that it seemed to have to recommend it was hardiness ; and all it could 
do was to yield an abundant crop in the most trying time of cold or drought. 
Even though its fruit was almost worthless, it would show its willingness to be 
useful by doing its best. 

Through all the years of work in his plant school Burbank has gone 
out into the open — in the mountain, valley, and forest — and sought out "the little 
wildings that longed for a more favorable place for growth and development, 
and brought them in for training. His sympathetic heart went out to them, and 
his fine intuition told him which would respond readily to cultivation. Indeed, 
when only a boy, he sympathized with weeds, and wondered if he might not be 
able to improve them. He said, "Weeds are weeds because they are jostled, 
crowded, cropped and tramped upon, scorched by fierce heat, starved, or perhaps 
suffering from cold, wet feet, tormented by insect pests, or lack of nourishing 
food and sunshine. Weeds are plants out of place." 

He seemed always to know which of these degenerates would prove grate- 
ful, and be willing to help the other pupils in the school. He saw in this hardy 
little savage an unselfish nature, and immediately set about preparing for its im- 
provement and usefulness. 

34 Stones of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

When Little Beach arrived at the plant school he was greatly surprised at 
the cordial welcome he received. The plum pupils and the prune pupils were 
especially glad to see him. Even the most aristocratic ones offered their hands, 
and smiled upon him. He admired their upright carriage, their fine glossy leaves, 
and, later on, their lovely white blossoms. He hoped that sometime he would 
look as grand as they, but he could not quite understand why his blooms, were 
not out. 

Then he heard the scientist say something about the other pupils and the 
prune pupils minding the frost, and that it kept them from bearing fruit in many 
places. He began then and there to feel his importance, for he knew all about 
how to resist the cold. His experience had been large on that line ; and, then 
and there, he began to realize how he was going to be of use by teaching them 
new ways, while he was also receiving instructions from the master. 

A month later Little Beach was a perfect snowball of bloom, when the Japa- 
nese plums and others had lost nearly all their beautiful white petals. 

Then came the wise one to admire Little Beach's flowers, and also to im- 
part to him the knowledge of his real worth, and to tell him what was expected 
of him in the future. From a few belated blooms of the Japanese plums some 
pollen had been dried, and great care had been taken to preserve its vitality. He 
now placed this pollen upon the stigma of the choicest of Little Beach's blos- 
soms, and tagged them until the fruit should ripen. 

The next season the plant pupils from these seeds made fine progress ; and, 
when large enough, were placed upon the arms of a full-grown plum tree, along 
with the pupils of more distinguished ancestors, in the Gold Ridge grounds. 

It was only two years from that time until this, the first generation, bore 
fruit, which showed such great improvement that Burbank knew there 
was a great future for Little Beach; but further crossing, or pollenation, must 
be done, and he must continue to cultivate patience, which this restless little fel- 
low needed. 

Little Beach rejoiced, I am sure, when the fine plum pupils of the third gen- 
eration appeared, for they were beauties to look upon, their fruit being larger, 
and very delicious. Many of them wore lovely, bright colors — red, pink 
and yellow — and one was clothed in a rich royal purple, flecked with white. None 
of these showed a trace of bitterness in the rich meat. And such plump, round 
bodies they had ! Not one of them was a bit flattened, and none had the suture, 
or crease that other plums have. To his deHght, and to the delight of his teacher, 

The Ennobling of Little Beach 35 

they had erect forms, and beautiful, glossy leaves, and were possessed of a fine 
constitution. They would be sure to prove a blessing, especially to those who 
could not before enjoy the luscious plum because of a cold climate. He had now 
made it possible for the plum family, with its higher education, to be prolific ev- 

Little Beach is considered a great hero in the plant school, and has become 
renowned; for he has been adopted, so that he may remain there permanently, 
and be of still greater use in the world. 


Some have spoken of the poppy as gaudy, bold and flaunting; but this is 
an idea of the careless observer, for really there is a refinement and culture, to 
one who knows the flower, in the satiny sheen and delicate texture of the fabric 
with which she clothes herself. Among the ancients the poppy was a flower sacred 
to Ceres, and Ceres was the goddess of the fetrile field, of sowing and reaping and 
of harvest festivals. We are so glad the goddess loved the poppy, for we think 
her a lovely flower child, and we know that Burbank loves poppies or he never 
could have succeeded in training them as he has. 

Some of the poppy children had been in the school a long time. We have told 
you how Miss Eschscholtzia changed the color of her dress. Now, we will tell 
you how an entirely new poppy was brought into existence under the direction 
of the teacher of the plant school, and how Oriental and Opium, two poppy peo- 
ple, whose home was in far away Asia, proved their worth in assisting him. 

These poppies were so widely different in their natures and habits, that it 
was contrary to all before known scientific laws to try to combine them. Oriental 
\v2LS a perennial, that is a plant growing all the time from year to year, while 
Opium was an annual and must be raised' from seed each season. But when one 
says that anything in the improvement of plants is impossible, Burbank simply 
says, ''Wait! Let us see about it!" 

Opium had long borne a rather bad reputation, because of its furnishing a 
poisonous liquid, which brings ruin and death to those who habitually use it. But 
the master's work is not only to train good into his plant pupils, but to train 
out the bad; and he was certain that he should not have the accusation of being 
poisonous hang over the life of the new poppy ; for with this flower he had plan- 
ned to brighten homes everywhere. So he instructed Opium to cultivate only the 
good qualities which he wished the new poppy to possess. 

When these two poppies. Oriental and Opium, were classified and settled in 
their department right across from the snowy Crinum lilies, that continually 
suggested purity, in their sweet spotless robes, they seemed to forget much of the 
scenes and work of their former lives in China and India, and to think only of 
the lessons to be learned in the plant school. Oriental missed Opium all through 

The Fire Poppy 37 

the long summer and autumn, and, indeed, most of the year ; for Opium was only 
a short-lived spring flower. Whether her long sleep was caused by the influence 
of the juice, which she gave out to real people or whether it was the habit other 
sprmg flowers have, we cannot say; but those who take opium made from the 
juice of this flower sleep a great deal and, in time, they care for nothing else, so 
are generally failures as human beings. 

Oriental's leisure time, we may imagine, as it was in a new home, was spent 
in making nev/ acquaintances among the many plant people, who were there from 
every land, also learning all it could and amusing itself as well. 

The plant people are not deep thinkers, but none of them are entirely without 
ingenuity and wisdom. The Tulip poppy did some very cimning things that 
caused them all to rustle their leaves in laughter as if they were tittering and 
clapping their hands. The wind always enters into their enjoyment, and the 
wind can tell some of the most beautiful stories of ail. 

This was the trick of the Tulip poppy. When a bee lit upon her radiant 
bloom, she closed her two inner petals tightly together and held him fast, as you 
would catch a butterfly with your two hands. Mr. Bee then set up a furious buz- 
zing, which grew louder and louder, calling for help. If the master chanced to 
be where the cry reached his sensitive ear, he sometimes unclasped Miss Tulip's 
hands and gave Mr. Bee his freedom, otherwise he must remain a prisoner until 
she chose to let him go. This was a funny way to send her golden horde of 
pollen to other poppies, was it not? But it was a good way, one of Mother 
Nature's ways, for when Mr. Bee escaped he was laden with the yellow dust, 
and, lighting upon another poppy, he left much of it there. Mr. Bee never seemed 
quite to understand this trick of paying for the honey he sipped; for bees are al- 
ways heard hum.ming in the poppy place. 

When the plum trees blossomed in a burst, Opium awoke from the long, long- 
nap to greet Oriental with a wealth of blooms of many colors. Oriental was 
decked in scarlet, the large single flowers looking very attractive. Burbank chose 
one of the finest blooms and shook it gently over Opium's head, so that the pol- 
len from Oriental's anthers fell upon the stigma of Opium. In this way the 
two poppies combined and the teacher looked with great interest to some won- 
derful new poppies as the result. 

The next season the childish plants from these mixed seeds v/ere of great 
variety in both form and color, and especially so was their foliage, no two being- 
alike. Seme had woolly leaves, some hairy ones, v/hile others were quite 

38 Stories of Luther Bnrbank's Plant School 

smooth. Some were a light green, others were quite dark. The flowers were 
scarlet, crimson, white, purple and yellow. The seed pods or vases differed 
greatly. Some of them were from four to six times larger than those of either of 
the original poppies others were scarcely larger than the stem that bore them, 
while the pod was wholly absent in some. 

Have you ever noticed carefully the poppy's seed pod? If not you would be 
delightfully surprised when you placed it under a microscope. Any flower or seed 
vase to the tiniest wilding will disclose to you when magnified a fairyland of 
pleasure of which you never even dreamed. A flower, which you pass by daily 
unnoticed, under a microscope becomes as beautiful as an orchid, bedecked with 
diamonds or pearls. The orchid is said to possess the highest intelligence ot 
any flower, and is certainly among the most beautiful. The dainty designs from 
Nature's looms are indeed wonderful. One, who has examined and studied 
carefully these, the "sweetest thought of God," could never willfully trample a 
flower under foot or fail to give a cooling drink to a thirsty, drooping plant. 

There is no more interesting study than that of plants. Why not give your- 
self a nature exercise by examining the poppy vase? You will find the seed pod 
much like a pepper box, with holes not on top but under the brim that the seeds 
may be safely housed from the weather until they are ripe. Then you can 
shake them out as you would shake pepper fromx a box.. If left, the vase will bend 
over and sway to and fro for the wind to scatter the seeds. Surely Mother Na- 
ture has had great intelligence to provide so comfortable and so beautiful a cradle 
for the seed babies. 

Selection of the best offspring from the mixed seeds of Oriental and Opium 
each year, vv^hen the young plants reached the proper size, went on for many years 
before a gorgeous one in radiant beauty came forth, waving her large vermilion 
flowers on branching stalks, adorned with soft gray-green foliage, and bearing 
this message to the world : 

"You may depend upon me to brighten your lives every month in the year. 
If you love me and wish me near you, I will divide myself for you. This is an 
easy way to place me in your garden, as I have few seeds to give you." 

And, O, how we wish you could see these beauties as we first saw them — 
one great continuous bank of glowing, flaming red, with a clean happy bright- 
ness, beautifully fresh and newly' varnished, as if an artist had just left them. 
Truly magnificent specimens of joyous planthood, filled with the perpetual fires 
of a vivid sunset — fiery vermilion, with a purplish black spot at the base of each 
petal — so it was christened "Fire" Poppy. 


About thirty-five years ago a number of strawberry pupils from different 
lands entered the plant school. One came from New England where, no doubt, 
many Puritan children had feasted on the fruit of its ancestors. Another came 
from Alaska, the home of the little brown Esquimaux, while still another sailed 
over the broad Atlantic, then traveled by rail across the United States until it was 
so near the mighty Pacific, that the moistened breezes revived its drooping stalk 
and withered leaves. Its home was in Norway, "the land of the midnight sun." 

Perchance this Norwegian plant pupil had sat at the foot of the Scandinavian 
Alps and listened to the rumble and roar of old Thor's brazen charioty as it rolled 
from peak to peak. 

These plant pupils were a long way from home, still they were content, for 
they received the best of care from their teacher. They were placed very 
near each other and soon learned the ways of the California berry pupils, which 
had been brought from the hills and valleys bordering the Pacific. There were 
also many varieties of cultivated berries varying in color from the brightest scar- 
let to white. They trailed their slender forms along the ground, their variously 
polished or downy leaves spread upward to take in the pure air and to catch the 
bright rays of sunshine, without which the food could not be digested for the use 
of the plants. 

For many years cross pollenation and selection of the best continued. When 
scarlet berries peeped from beneath the green leaves, badges of honor were award- 
ed those plants that excelled in any particular. Still the ideal berry was not pro- 
duced and it was finally decided to discontinue the task undertaken and 
give these berry pupils a vacation. Most of them were allowed to remain in the 
school, however, for they had become very dear to their teacher. In a plant 
school, as in a school for children, it is necessary for some pupils to remain long- 
er than others. 

After twenty years had passed a plant collector sent to the school some seeds 
of Chiloensis, a wild strawberry that grew on the high mountains between Chili 
and Patagonia. 

These tiny seeds were sov^^n in the kindergarten department of the plant 

40 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

school, and after being promoted to Gold Ridge they were soon ready for a fruit 
test. They were found to bear very small berries but of excellent flavor. 

In the school were strawberry pupils, brought from the sand hills near the 
coast. In their native home they are wise little plants, for they learned to pro- 
tect their fruit by growing close to the ground. They sometimes even hide their 
red berries in the sand or under their leaves, so that children have difficulty in 
finding them ; and only those who have learned their habits return from a berry 
hunt with baskets filled with the sweet juicy fruit. 

A blending of these two new plants was undertaken and the master soon had 
a class of berry pupils ready for Gold Ridge. 

The da}^ for final examinations came all too soon. The teacher was disap- 
pointed for out of the thousands of plants under training not one had the desired 
qualities. So more education must be given. 

Again the kindergarten was crowded and again the workmen were kept busy 
for many days during promotion season. 

Gentle,, merry, laughing Spring hastened rapidly by, but before she vanished 
smiling white- petaled faces looked out from beneath the green canopies of thou- 
sands of berry pupils. The day of selection finally arrived. Such a variety of 
red' cheeked berries had seldom been seen. The master moved among his plant 
pupils with anxious anticipation. For more than thirty years his great heart had 
longed to produce a berry that would gladden the homes of rich and poor alike. 

The search continued. Finally one was found. The ideal was at last attained. 
A plant bearing a most unique berry was seen among the thousands around him. 

The leaves of this new plant are thick and firm and covered with silky down, 
well protecting the ripening berries from the hot rays of the sun. The stalks on 
Vv'hich the berries grow are large and branching, and it is possible, in w^arm dry 
weather, for berries to keep a week on vines after ripening. The berries are large, 
firm and luscious, sometimes weighing an ounce each. They are a pale scarlet 
outside and a delicate yellow inside. The seeds, which grow on the outside of all 
strawberries, are so small on this new berry that one can scarcely notice them. 

John Burroughs, the naturalist and writer, visited the plant school and when 
invited to taste these new berries, he exclaimed, *'A most delicious berry, the best 
I have ever tasted !" 

This berry has been named Patagonia. Its early training, with the proper 
environment, has developed it into one of the best strawberry pupils ever grad- 
uated from the plant school. 


In the little New England garden of Burbank's eastern home grew the old- 
fashioned gladiolus. This had a tall stalk v/ith a number of small brownish crim- 
son lily-shaped flowers forming a spike. The flowers were all on one side of the 
stem and bloomed irregularly; those that first opened were faded and dying be- 
fore the slower ones greeted the summer sunshine. Thus the spike was never 
perfect, and the faded flowers had to be removed else the plant presented a rag- 
ged, untidy appearance. 

Another unhappy feature of the gladiolus was its awkward stooping habit 
as if it were about to fall over or did not care whether it stood straight or not. 
Frequently it might be seen in the New England garden with a soft cord passed 
around it and on around a stake, but in spite of every suggestion gladiolus would 
not stand erect. 

When the plant school was established Burbank chose among the many 
other flower friends of his childhood gladioli as pupils. He loved his old time 
friends and wished to teach them to overcome all their imperfections. To ac- 
complish this he admitted many cultivated varieties from Europe, but these like 
their American brothers had weak stems, flowers too far apart on the stems and 
petals too delicate to withstand exposure to wind and bright sunshine. Large 
classes of European and American gladioli were formed and at the close of the 
term the assistants put white ties on those the master wished promoted. 

In southern Africa other kinds of gladioli grew ; although these were wild- 
ings their brilliant colors and markings were needed to blend with their cultivat- 
ed American cousins. These African plants were brought into the school, many 
were grown that the most beautiful and most perfect might lend their assistance 
to the master in training the stooping gladiolus to become more graceful and to 
produce larger and more lasting flowers of brilliant colors. 

After a few seasons improved European, American, and African gladioli 
stood in long rows in the school and pollenation began. Selections of the best 
were made until the long slender stalk disappeared and in its place was a short 
strong stem so closely set with large beautiful flowers, as to be entirely hidden 

42 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

from view. In cool pleasant weather, the first blossoms on the stem remained to 
say "good morning" to the last flower that bloomed. There were blossoms of 
distinct colors and blossoms of many hues and shades with brilliant markings. 

For ten years gladioli remained in the school and during this time nearly a 
million young plants were grown from the seeds. But plants have enemies as well 
as people, and these enemies visit the plant school as elsewhere. Gophers became 
so numerous and destroyed so many bulbs that the master decided to graduate 
the entire gladiolus class. 

He was sorry to part with his pupils but the sacrifice was necessary that the 
enemy be overcome. He gave his most beautiful graduates distinct names. One 
was almost double and wore a gown of deep pink, shading to white. This he 
named California. Another, white shaded with purple, was called Shasta ; others 
received the names Santa Rosa, Yolo, Mariposa and other California names. 

Although surrounded by beautiful flowers from all parts of the world and 
busy with fruits from every clime the master did not forget his gladioli pupils. 
So when at last the enemy was exterminated he determined to admit another 
gladiolus class. 

Training at once began. He crossed and selected from thousands of seedings 
until the members of the gladiolus class became almost innumerable, still promo- 
tions continued. 

In the Gold Ridge school now (1913) may be seen numerous long rows of 
gladioli. The plants, standing close together, present one solid line of foliage and 
flowers reaching from the roadway over the sloping hillside. They do not now 
need the stake of the New England garden for a support for the strong straight 
stem stands erect entirely surrounded by blossoms. The gladiolus pupils have 
been taught to stand erect. 

To accurately describe the dress of these thousands of gladiolus pupils would 
be a study for the master. There are shades of delicate pink, flaming, glowing- 
yellow, cardinal scarlet, royal purple, deepest crimson, dark salmon, orange scar- 
let, pinkish lavender, bluish purple, creamy white, carmine, amethyst, heliotrope, 
lavender and mauve. These exquisite intermingling colors, shades and tints seem 
to vie with those one often sees at evening in the eastern skies after the passing of 
an April shower. 


As Father Time has from century to century marched through Mother JNa- 
ture's realm, reaping with his great scythe, many plant children have been down- 
trodden, never to rise again. Others, whose lives were intended by the Creator 
of the universe to be of lasting benefit to mankind, have been so jostled and crowd- 
ed and bruised and broken, that they have taken on an armor of defense only to 
be shunned by civilization until some friend should come to their rescue. 

Still others have been kept by man as mere curiosities and have been given 
grudgingly a home to satisfy man's greed for gain. 

In the Burbank plant school we find all these classes of Nature's children 

Prune Sans Nauyou, Half-pit, a little French outcast, was allowed a home 
in some of the large gardens of France simply as a curiosity, its peculiarity being 
the pit. Only about one half of the kernel was covered by the hard stone or shell. 
The open end of this pit was jagged and the hole was covered by the flesh of the 

The plum was no larger than a small cherry, the skin was tough and the 
flesh both sour and bitter. Little Half-pit was not sought for its excellent qual- 

Now, the master of the plant school, who sees "tongues in trees, books in the 
running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing," became interested 
in Half-pit and admitted it to his school. It was given a place among the other 
plum pupils, but because its fruit was so small, its body and limbs so scraggy and 
crooked, we think it must have been discouraged at first. 

Near Half-pit and in the great plum-prune class stood "Vesuvius," noted for 
her beauty of dress — for her foliage, her great leaves being often four or five 
inches wide and six inches long. The color scheme in this leafy gown was gorg- 
eous, a beautiful dark crimson shading into light crimson and white. Both the 
upper and under surface of this leafy mantle was exquisite. 

Poor scraggy Half-pit in crumpled green leafy gown was in the same class 

44 Stories of Luther Bnrbank's Plant School 

with these gayly clad pupils ; but in a plant school, we feel sure, there is no fun 
making- or tittering when an illy-dressed plant waif is admitted. 

The juniors and seniors, too, were largely plum pupils and perhaps Half-pit 
did not learn all their names at all for there were so many. There were Amer- 
ica. Alhambra, Abundance, Apple, Bartlett, Botan, Burbank, Beauty, Chalco, 
Climax, Combination, Choice, Delaware, Doris, Epoch, Formosa, First, Giant, 
Glow, Gaviota, Gold, Hale, Juicy, Maynard, Nixie, October, Pasha, Prize, Pearl, 
Red June, Santa Rosa, Splendor, Standard, Sugar, Sultan, Sweet, Sat- 
suma, Shipper, Shiro, Wickson, Victory, Vesta, Vesuvius, and Gee Whiz. 

Some of these had been graduated before the waif came ; we suspect that the 
little creature often longed to become large enough, straight enough, and cul- 
tured enough to receive this honor and perhaps also to become as sweet as Sugar 
and as beautiful as Gee Whiz or America. 

After several years Half-pit began to understand the desire of the master 
and to know that the seed covering it had tried to keep was not necessary to its 
existence at all, but that it could be of more service to man if the half shell were 
entirely gone. Half-pit persevered, and about the fifth season after entering 
school many white blossoms appeared and the wise teacher brought yellow dust 
from the French prune, to combine it with that of Half-pit. 

Soon little prunes that looked like green goose-berries took the place of the 
snowy blossoms, and as the morning moist-laden breezes bathed them, and the 
warm mid-day sunbeams kissed them, they grew larger, more beautiful and of 
brighter hue. 

When the teacher came to examine the fruit he was greatly pleased with the 
result of his experiment ; still success was doubtful for as in most other cases 
years of scientific selection was still required, necessitating the planting of thou- 
sands of seeds. Later, other crosses were made ; sometimes pollen from prunes, 
at other times pollen from plums was used. Often the half-pits were larger than 
the original, indeed many of the young trees bore fruit with entire pit covering. 
The best half pits were usually saved for planting, although other desirable 
qualities had to be considered when selecting seeds. The new fruit must be sweet, 
large, and juicy. As many as five thousand descendants of little Half-pit were 
often in the school at one time. 

Choosing the best of these for further education, would seem an insurmount- 
able task to most people, but Burbank's unequaled power of selection, his match- 
less intuition, enables him to walk rapidly between long rows of any kind of 

The Waif of The School 45 

seedling trees and from their general appearance and foliage direct his workmen 
which to save. 

Half-pit was brought into the school about 1887. In 1899 a descendant of 
Half-pit since named Conquest appeared. This was the first pitless prune ever 
produced by man. The work of perfecting this fruit has been carried on until 
now (1913) many varieties of prunes which have no hard stone are found in the 
plant school. There is, however, a tiny kernel in the most of these prunes which 
adds a rich almond flavor to the fruit. This kernel looks somewhat like the seed 
of an apple. In some of the recent prunes there are left only small fragments 
as if the kernel of an apple seed had been divided. This stoneless variety Con- 
quest is about the form and flavor of the French prune commonly grown in Cali- 
fornia, but is larger. 

Scraggy, sour little Half-pit can laugh with the winds now, as it beholds the 
surprised expression on the face of great and wise men, who visit the school and 
are given this new fruit and asked to cut through its center. Of course they con- 
sider it a joke, but when the pocket knife glides througli unmolested in its course 
they adjust their spectacles and search for the stone that they think should be but 
is not there. 


"We have it in our power to change the forms, sizes, colors, fragrance and 
numerous other quaUties of flowers, the size and shape of the trees and plants 
which produce them, to increase the quantity produced, to make them appear 
early or late in the season and to make tender ones frost-proof. It is in our 
power, moreover, to mold fruits, nuts and vegetables, to almost any size, form, 
color, or flavor desired, to make corn, grain and grasses tall or short, and richer 
in starch, sugar, oil or other products ; to increase the amount of sugar in cane, 
beets or other sugar-producing plants ; to improve the flavor of tea, coffee, cocoa, 
cinnamon, cloves and thousands of other plants ; to improve in every respect cot- 
ton, flax, hemp, and all other fiber-producing plants ; and to increase the growth 
of timber trees. In fact to guide the plant forces with as much precision as we 
now do the mechanical and chemical forces and with even more striking results 
in the advancement of the race." 

How did Luther Burbank gain these great facts? Did he inherit the power 
to make plants more useful and beautiful? Did he get these principles from the 
great masters of science ? Or did he learn them in the little garden of his child- 
hood? This and the chapter, "The New England Garden," tell of the environ- 
m.ent where the boy Luther planned and dreamed the beginning of his life work. 

Rows of currant bushes, bending with full clusters of scarlet berries, half- 
hidden by green leaves, graced either side of the thrifty vegetable garden in 
which the youth spent much time. Pulling weeds and hoeing corn tired the mus- 
cles, but the growing plants were a constantly changing panorama that taught 
beautiful lessons not to be learned in books. 

When in early spring the sun v/armed the soft, damp earth and it was made 
mellov/ and smooth by deep plowing and thorough cultivation, peas, beans, beets, 
cairots, turnips and onions were planted. The little tomato, pepper, cabbage and 
cauliflower plants were carefully removed from boxes or hot beds, where the 
seeds had been sown even before the earth's covering of snow had disappeared, 
and were placed in the ground now ready for them. How eagerly was their 
growth watched, each tiny new leaf being greeted with joy! 

The Vegetable Garden 47 

With exultant pride the first bright crimson radishes were pulled from the 
plot, where the lettuce as it peeped forth from the brown earth spelled in the 
brightest green — L^u-t-h-e-r. When, a little later in the season, the sweet corn 
was planted, the boy, like Hiawatha, would 

''Go to wait and watch beside it; 

Kept the dark mould soft about it. 

Kept it clean from weeds and insects. 

Till at length a small green feather 
From the earth shot slowly upward, 
Then another and another, 
And before the summer ended 
Stood the maize m all its beauty 
With its shining robes about it. 
And its long, soft yellow tresses ; 

And still later, when the Autumn 

Changed the long green leaves to yellow 

And the soft and juicy kernels 

Grew like wampum hard and yellow 

Then the ripened ears he gathered." 
Once when a large cucumber was found growing in a glass bottle, which 
had a neck barely large enough to admit the stem, no one inquired, for every one 
knew, who it was that had placed it in the bottle when the great yellow petals 
were falling and the tiny cucumber was just beginning its growth, and had, day 
after day, watched its development in its prison house of glass, as it lay hidden 
beneath a tangle of vines. 

In the garden grew curious gourds from which were obtained nest eggs, 
water bottles and drinking cups. And the melons! Great juicy, pink-fleshed 
watermelons ! Was there ever a boy who did not like watermelons ? The musk- 
melons and squashes grew here also; but the great golden pumpkins were not 
allowed in this garden. They grew among the corn in the larger field. 

He was fond of tracing his initials, with the point of a penknife, on the little 
pumpkins and of watching the letters increase in size as the pumpkins did. A 
circus parade passed by the field one day, and, as the pumpkins grew to maturity, 

4^ Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

on them were seen in outline elephants, lions, tigers and other circus attractions. 
These pictured pumpkins caused much merriment and comment when exhibited 
at a county fair that fall. This, however, did not save them from serving as 
Jack-o'lantems at Hallowe'en. Those which escaped that experience were ready 
to be made into pie for Thanksgiving dinner. It was of such pumpkins as these 
that Whittier sang: 

"O fruit loved of boyhood the old days recalling, 

When woodgrapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling, 

When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin. 

Glaring out through the dark with a candle within ! 

When we laughed around the corn heap with hearts all atune. 

Our chair a broad pumpkin — our lantern the moon. 

Telling tales of the fairy that traveled like steam, 

In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team." 

Here also grew rhubarb with broad green leaves, asparagus and celery, spicy 
peppergrass and various herbs used for seasoning — thym.e, sage and summer 

This garden was the source of the old fashioned boiled dinner, once so la- 
mous in New England. A large kettle was placed on the fire and in it pieces of 
salted pork or beef. Later the various vegetables were added according to the 
time each required for cooking — beets, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, corn, pota- 
toes, beans, peas and squash, the last three being placed in cloth bags so as not 
to become mingled with the other vegetables. All were served on a large platter 
and side dishes. The children coming home from school never forgot to seek the 
cold roasting ears laid away from the noonday meal for their lunch. 

Alany of these vegetables were stored in the cellar for winter use, crimson 
beets, yellow and white turnips, silver-skinned onions, great heads of cabbage, 
yellow pumpkins, and plenty of potatoes. Then there were jars of pickles and 
cans of tomatoes, also. The store of popcorn for the merry evenings around the 
winter fireside came from this thrifty garden. 

Reliable seed houses, with attractive catalogues, from which seeds can be 
readily obtained, were not as numerous fifty years ago as now ; so each year seeds 
were saved from this garden for the next year's planting. Seeds from the first 
large, ripe tomato, the finest melon, the most perfect ear of corn, a few of the ear- 
liest and best peas and beans were selected and in that way the quality of the vege- 
tables was not only maintained but much improved ; and something of the prin- 

The Vegetable Garden 49 

ciple of selection — the foundation principle of all plant improvement — was learned 
by the boy. 

Experience taught the advisability of planting kindred plants some distance 
apart, that they might not "mix," and thus the quality be impaired. The part 
played by the wind in carrying pollen from flower to flower, and the dependence 
of plants upon bees and other insects was also learned in this garden. No doubt 
even this early, Luther Burbank grasped many of the principles by which have 
been wrought great changes in fruits and flowers. 

That plants are constantly changing, being influenced by their environment, 
adjusting themselves to external conditions, has long been known. Man has 
for ages unconsciously adapted plants to his wants. The leaves of lettuce and 
cabbage were used, and those plants having many closely packed leaves were 
chosen for seed until the result has been compact heads. Of turnips, car- 
rots and beets the root was the desired part, and now only a comparatively small 
portion of the plant is above ground. The leaf stalk of rhubarb is used, the blos- 
som of cauliflower, the bud of the artichoke, the fruit of the tomato, melon and 
squash and the seeds of beans and peas. By selection each has been induced to 
emphasize the part desired. 

The task of directing scientifically and systematically these great forces of 
nature was left to Luther Burbank; and the result has been an almost undreamed 
of control of plant life. Something of the inestimable loss to the world by the 
raising of plants not well adapted to the use of man, has also been made evident. 

In fact, more advance in plant improvement is now being made in a decade 
than formerly in centuries, yet the master of the plant school says this work is 
i5till in ''its earliest infancy." 



WhKn Luther Burbank was a boy his father, Samuel Walton Burbank, was en- 
gaged in the manufacture of brick, and owned not only his cultivated farm but also 
a large acreage of woodlands. 

In these woodlands men were employed during the winter months felling 
trees and preparing wood which was used the following summer in burning the 
great kilns of brick. Many times each winter, in the large wood sled drawn by 
Chub, the faithful family horse, the father visited the v/oodlands. He was often 
accompanied by his two little sons and their baby sister, all in warm coats, muf- 
flers and mittens, and snugly tucked in with a big buffalo robe. 

Even before the open fields and pasture lands had been crossed, shouts of 
childish glee fell upon the father's ear and perchance each boy was seen scudding 
the roadway holding to the back of the sled with one hand, and in the other flour- 
ishing a ball of snow; while Trip, the pet dog, barked and frolicked as he joined 
in the winter's sport. 

The way led across the ice covered meadow brook, through the now leafless 
huckleberry and blueberry bushes, where so often during the summer, pails had 
been filled to the brim with sweet plump berries ; then up the gentle slope of Pine 
Hill, the sled moved slowly on, cutting its way almost to the frozen ground, 
through fleecy flakes of snow, under the overlapping branches of oak and chest- 

Again in springtime the children, with their father, visited the woodlands. 
The spruce and pine had early put on their new spring trimming tips of light 
green and, being in a joyous mood, sang a song of springtime as the wind played 
among their slender needles. The oaks and birches on the hillsides had long since 
awakened from their winter's sleep and were joyously waving their beautiful 
fringe-like pollen blossoms in the breeze. 

But the time ever to be remembered by these New England children was the 
purple hazy days of Indian summer, when autumn robed the trees with richest 
tints. Days when after the first frosts Chub was harnessed to the cart and with 
baskets in hand in which to gather the fallen hickory nuts and chestnuts, the chil- 

Where the Brown Nuts Fall 51 

dren climbed in beside the father, calHng Trip to follow. The sandy grass grown 
roads through the woods were hidden beneath a carpet of intermingling shades of 
russet, scarlet, crimson, and gold, while through arches of oak, maple, and chest- 
nut the sun cast a checkered light upon the rustling leaves. 

Occasionally a gentle breeze caused a shower of gHstening nuts from the 
opening burrs, which were hailed with delight by the children. Trip ran to and 
fro, now and then halting at the foot of a tall tree to make known in his own ex- 
pressive language the presence of a bushy tailed squirrel among its branches. 
Then Chub, as if understanding it all, slackened his pace and three happy chil- 
dren were soon seen scrambling among fallen leaves searching for the little brown 
nuts. Sometimes the burr itself with its three nuts snugly encased lay beneath 
the rustling coverlet, and busy fingers were pricked by the protecting spines. 

On these excursions the father told stories of plant and animal life, directing 
the children's attention, not only to flowers and trees, but also to the woodchuck 
in his burrow, to nests of birds, and to squirrels with their store of nuts and acorns 
in hollow trees. 

Luther, the older son, was ever anxious to learn more of Nature's ways. He 
made careful observation of bud and branch. The pollen blossoms of 
oak and chestnut were to him the pages of an open book ; these he studied and 
mused long on the lessons they taught. The slow growth of walnut and chestnut 
trees was noted. Watching the wood choppers making axe handles from hickory 
wood, he saw that they chose the ''pig walnut" because of its superior strength 
although the "shag bark," the nuts of which were larger and better, was also 
valued for timber. He learned to distinguish the varieties of timber by the wood 
fiber, and habits of growth, as well as by the nuts. Thus the mind of the boy was 
both consciously and unconsciously storing knowledge that was to ripen into gold- 
en fruit in after years. 

In the home were books descriptive of plant life; these were read and re- 
read, ever with the desire to know more of the life and habits of the plant com- 
panions. A cousin, who was a student of science and a personal friend of the 
great Agassiz, became interested in the questioning young mind, and although 
several years the lad's senior, the two became fast friends, and companions in the 
study of the treasures of meadow, field, and forest. 

Years passed, yet many questions of plant life remained unanswered in the 
mind of the youth. Not until after the plant school was established at Santa 
Rosa, California, were these questions of such vital importance to the world 

52 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

solved. Then they were answered by the mind of the master through the slow 
but accurate process of experimentation. 

The American chestnut of the father's woodland farm was not forgotten. It 
was early given a place in the plant school. The trees wtre of considerable size 
but produced very few and small nuts which were, however, of most excellent 
quality. It required from ten to twenty years for a tree to bear when grown from 
seed. The desire of Burbank was to perfect his childhood friend. 

In Japan grew a kind of chestnut tree, which, though smaller than its Amer- 
ican brother, produced a larger nut, but the nut was of a poorer quality, being 
coarse grained and not as sweet as the American chestnut. This Japanese chest- 
nut was admitted to the school and a combination of the two was effected. 

As time went on thousands of seedling trees from this and other similar 
chestnut crosses were in training at the Gold Ridge school. When the first young 
trees ripened nuts, selection began. The nuts from trees producing fruit at an 
early age were usually saved for planting, although other traits besides early 
bearing were considered. As the different classes came forward for inspection, 
progress along many lines was noted. Trees becoming more compact and at an 
early age bearing larger, handsomer nuts which were of a better flavor were pro- 

Much expense and years of patient waiting were given to the chestnut pu- 
pils. At last trees were found in the school that produced nuts at eighteen 
months of age. These trees and nuts have the best qualities of the American and 
Japanese chestnut combined. 

If the large sweet nuts from these beautiful compact growing, and early 
bearing chestnut trees gladden the lives of boys and girls as did the little brown 
jiuts growing without care in the New England woods, the master will be content. 


This is the story of the Calla. She told it one day to her friends as they rest- 
ed in the shade of the trees. It was near Eastertide and the whole circle of flower 
students were interested for they knew that it is at Easter the Callas are most 

''We were not always so graceful as we are today," the story teller 
began in a low soft tone. "Ages and ages ago when our ancestors lived in the 
wilds of Africa we had only a long yellow spike to make us beautiful. This was 
surrounded by a number of separate broad green leaves much as other flowers 
are. After a while one of these leaves grew larger and gradually folded around 
the spike forming a flower cup. It took many, many years to make this change 
for Mother Nature, who is our teacher in the wilds, works very slowly. Our 
pollen needed protection so we persevered. Then we wanted to attract the in- 
sects so they would carry our pollen to other spikes. Nature taught us to change 
the color of the green cup to white. 

''Some of my relatives, however, chose pale yellow as their color, while others 
preferred dark yellow or orange. 

"I was the first calla to enter the school," continued the speaker. "I am 
known here as 'White Calla,' but by many people I am incorrectly called 'The Lily 
of the Nile.' You see I am not a lily at all for lilies have six petals which bend 
gracefully from a central stem. 

"The master has trained many of his calla class to produce very large blos- 
soms. This he does by selecting year after year the largest of our number for 
promotion. As a reward for his labors one of our class succeeded in producing a 
blossom ten inches across on a stem six feet high. So far as we know this is the 
largest calla that ever graced a stalk so tall, and we are proud of our class record. 
We feel like challenging the world having size, grace and beauty the points at is- 

"In another class of white callas which we call 'the little gems' the Master 
trained for small flowers and short stem. Each year he chose as the graduates 
the very smallest and most perfect callas. At last a regular Tom Thumb was 

54 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

found. A perfect white blossom less than two inches across, grew on a stem about 
ten inches high. 

"But by far the largest number of callas to enter our school were the wild 
tribes from southern and central Africa. They were a curious group when they 
arrived. Calla Hastata, Pride of the Congo, was adorned with pale yellow blos- 
soms having dark yellow spots. EUitiana, from Cape Good Hope, had large 
golden yellow flower cups and green foliage spotted white. 

"The blossom of Rehemani, the pupil from Natal, might be compared to a 
coat of many colors, the outside being a delicate pink, the lining a rose purple, 
with bright crimson shadings. 

"Albo-maculata was one of the smallest of these foreign pupils. The flower 
was a greenish yellow with a spot of dark crimson at the base. 

"Nelsoni, from Cape Town, produced a very small yellow flower shaded with 
purple. The delicate foliage was sprinkled with yellow dots. 

''Our master placed all these in one great class and began training by poUena- 
tion and selection. 

"A few years passed rapidly by, then a gorgeous array of callas were seen in 
the Gold Ridge school. They mingled together, drinking in the golden rays of 
sunshine by day, and filling their cups with silvery moonbeams by night. Myriads 
of stars, too, blinked as they gazed upon this strange assemblage of Nature's 

"They were of many forms and sizes ; some were tall and large, others, short 
and small, some vigorous and strong, others fragile and sensitive. In color they 
were from nearly pure white or light yellow through all the intermediate shades 
to dark yellow ; also purplish and crimson. The foliage was even more varied 
than the blossom. There were large leaves, and small leaves ; hairy leaves, and 
smooth leaves, green leaves striped with white, spotted and mottled in brown or 
variegated with intermingling shades of purple. The master walked among them, 
sometimes, in almost speechless admiration. 

*'Our school is justly proud of this class for from these wild African plants 
have been graduated many callas that are strong and will flourish in the 
open, in any semi-tropical climate. The blossom of each calla graduate is indeed 
beautiful, each being in itself a study. The foliage of some is a bright green 
with golden spots, others have green foliage spotted white, while still others have 
only the rich green of the white calla. 

Calla's Story 55 

'Xemon Giant is one of the noted graduates, and Fragrance, a beautiful 
white calla, has attracted the attention of florists all over the world. 

"I crave your pardon," said modest calla as the story was finished, "I did not 
mean to talk so long and to give undue praise to the great calla class but I do want 
to lead you to understand the training we have received in the plant school." 


While Luther Burbank was yet a young man in New England, he purchased 
land and devoted a few years to market gardening. In this garden there was a 
plot of Early Rose potatoes, which as is the habit of this variety seldom bore fruit 
from the blossom, as did most other kinds of potatoes at that time. Most grown 
folks now, who were children then, remember that this fruit was called the potato 
ball, and many were the children who picked the fruits and played with them. 

In the summer of 1871 as the young man was walking through his gar- 
den one morning, he saw among the foliage of one of the potato plants a seed 
ball. He had early formed the valuable habit of close observation, else he would 
have passed this by unnoticed, for it was the only fruit on the whole acre of po- 

He had known, from childhood, that when seeds are planted, either from the 
potato or almost any of our best orchard fruits, one is likely to get a better or a 
poorer variety than that planted ; for seeds from these plants seldom come true. 

He determined to save this lone fruit and plant the seeds hoping he 
might succeed in raising a new and better kind of potato, so he watched with im- 
patient eye its ripening. But when the vine turned brown and the fruit was al- 
most ready to break from the mother plant, he missed this treasure. He searched 
day after day and when had almost given up the seed as lost, he found it some 
distance from the vine. It had probably been broken off by a dog running through 
the patch. 

This seed ball contained just twenty-six seeds. Burbank carefully savecf 
them until the following spring. He planted them but must wait through the long 
summer months for the vines to grow and the tubers to form. 

When they peeped through the soil there were just twenty-three young po- 
tato plants. They were often visited and accurate observations regarding rapidity 
of growth, height and size of stalk, shade of color, shape and number of leaves, 
etc., were made. Each plant was carefully labeled and numbered. 

When it was time to dig the potatoes he found a few tubers in each hill. They 
were of different sizes, colors and shapes. Some were about the size of a hen's 

The First Pupil 57 

egg, others as large as an ordinary potato. The potatoes in hills numbered fif- 
teen, and seventeen were much better than the rest. The tubers of number fifteen 
were the largest, of uniform size, and were pure white, and together weighed three 
and one-fourth pounds. There were twenty-three new varieties but only seven of 
these were saved for future planting; all the others have been lost to cultivation. 
Some of these, by further trial, might have produced potatoes of importance. One 
that was discarded was bright red, one was pink, another pink with white eye 
brows, while in another the eyes reached nearly to the center of the potato. Today 
the master wauld save all for further training. 

An agricultural fair was held in the neighborhood and Burbank decided to 
exhibit his products. A long table was reserved on which he placed some of the 
finest beets, carrots, cabbages, pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes and watermelons 
that had been produced in the Bay State, and the tall stalks of corn bearing 
great ears and towering above the table were far better than those raised by the 
Pilgrim fathers under the direction of Massasoit, 

The mother, from whom Burbank inherited nmcji of his love for nature, 
brought bouquets of beautiful flowers and placed them on the table among the 
vegetables. Early in life the originator of the Shasta daisy was taught, by a lov- 
ing mother, to care for flowers. 

Glasses of transparent jellies, jellies of crystal white, and ruby red, also jams 
of various kinds from the mother's winter store were arranged in pyramids 
among the gardener's displays. But the exhibit that most attracted the curious as 
well as the scientific observer was seven plates each containing the product ot one 
of the seedling potato plants that Burbank had so carefully tended. 

One of the greatest seedsmen of the United States was invited to visit the 
fair and to deliver the opening address. In the course of his remarks he referred 
to the seven plates of seedling potatoes and to the possibility of their develop- 
ment, predicting for the producer a brilliant future. 

At the close of the program Burbank was introduced to this man of note. 
The seedsman enquired how he produced the potatoes and offered to buy number 
fifteen if, after further trial, it proved as good as it then promised. 

Cultivation for testing and to increase the stock continued until the fall of 
1875 when Burbank sent to the seedsman the potatoes he had raised from number 
fifteen and received for his new product one hundred and fifty dollars. The seeds- 
man christened the new potato ''Burbank" in honor of the originator and kindly 
allowed the young man to keep ten of the tubers. 

58 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

Burbank did not get rich from the sale of his potato, but let us see what the 
habit of observation and the diligence of one young man has meant to the world. 
A gentleman connected with the United States Department of Agriculture at 
Washington, D. C, many years ago made the following statement: 

"The Burbank potato has added to the productivity of the country $17,000,- 
000," and some one has calculated that if all the Burbank potatoes raised in one 
year were placed in a row, end to end, touching one another, the line would be 
long enough to make three rows of tubers from the earth to the moon. 

After selling his potato, Burbank decided to leave his home in New England 
and seek a climate more favorable to the work he most enjoyed — plant experi- 
mentation. With the hundred and fifty dollars received for his potato he pur- 
chased a ticket for the Golden State and brought with him the ten new potatoes 
for trial in the West. 

He engaged in the nursery business for a few years, but through these years 
he did not forget the precious seed ball nor its progeny; indeed by the time the 
plant school was established people over the greater part of the United States 
were eating Burbank potatoes and the Eastern seedsman was laying up treasures 
in a banker's vault from the sale of this world renowned product, while the name 
"Burbank" was becoming a household word in other lands. 

It was early discovered that this potato would withstand the blight better than 
other kinds and as this disease had been at times prevalent in Ireland since the 
great famine in 1846, this variety of potato was hailed with delight in the Emer- 
ald Isle ; for the potato is one of the principal foods of the Irish peasants. 

The potato was one of the first pupils admitted to the plant school, and such 
peculiar little strangers one seldom sees as those that come from South America, 
the native home of the whole race of potatoes. One of the collectors has sent 
tubers of many different shapes and colors, pink, dark red, purple, black, brown, 
yellow, and white, some of these have very curious habits. 

We usually see potatoes grow in a hill, snugly packed close to the parent 
stalk, like eggs in a nest ; but this has not always been their manner of growth. 
In the wild potatoes have the underground stem longer before the end thickens to 
form the tuber. They were taught the habit of growing tubers close to the plant 
by man, who has chosen for food and planting the ones that grow close together. 
In some parts of South America the natives are so lazy that they have dug from 
the wild plant only the tubers near the parent stalk, and, as they do not cultivate 
them, the other potatoes at the end of the underground stem are left to grow. 

The First Pupil 59 

This is one cause of the peculiar rambling habit of wild potatoes. A plant will per- 
haps produce tubers eight or ten feet in different directions from the rnain stalk, 
if placed in rich, cultivated soil. The collector laughingly remarks, "We have to 
herd our potatoes as we do our cattle." 

The master of the plant school has had many different varieties of South 
American potatoes in training, as well as varieties from Arizona and Mexico ; he 
has raised ten thousand seedlings from the Burbank potato but has never yet been 
able to educate a potato to surpass the snowy tubers produced in his New England 

The people of Massachusetts in the neighborhood of the market garden of 
so long ago are now preparing to erect a monument to the Burbank of Science on 
the spot where originated the potato that has so greatly increased the food supply 
of the world. 


One evening in si^mmer, after lessons were over, the pupils were seated around 
the warm glowing fire of the great setting sun. They were tired and to rest them- 
selves began to tell, one by one, the stories of their lives. Several related very in- 
teresting tales, then Bramble began. 

"I was the first rabus to enter school," said he, gracefully bending a long 
slender body as if to salute his classmates. ''My home, and the home of all bram- 
bles, was for ages in the forest. We had a hard struggle to live for the mighty 
oaks, pines and redwoods crowded us and stole our food until we were driven into 
the thicket. We greatly enjoyed trailing over the banks of woodland streams, but 
when forced to leave these cool places we sought the open, and if a friendly fence 
kindly offered support our slender arms clung to the long rough rails thankfully,, 
for our ripening fruit could there enjoy the sunshine. 

''All the boys and girls liked us and eagerly looked for us ; for they said we 
were much better at heart than our aristocratic cultivated relative?, the black- 
berries. My! how those girls scolded at our little needles when they took our 
fruit. I know our thorns are sharp like daggers but we have, for a long time,, 
been obliged to carry them for protection; for great bands of cattle and sheep 
used to lay waste our homes. Crowds of men, too, used to fall upon us and tram- 
ple us under foot. Had not my people carried many short sharp swords 1 am sure 
we should have all perished. 

"One flowery dewy morning in spring a strange man called on us. I never 
saw any one like him, he was in sympathy with us for he looked us all over care- 
fully, and did not scowl at our stickers ; then he took hold of me, put a shovel un- 
der me, and carried me off bodily. I did not know where I was going ; but I felt 
very safe. His kind touch gave me courage and confidence. Playmates, you may 
be surprised that the strange man was our present teacher, who has trained us so 

"Now, Siberia," said Bramble, who had made this long speech, "tell us your 

In a low whispering voice, like a gentle south wind, Siberia began. ''My old 

Bramble's Story 6l 

home is in far away Asia. I love my native land, let me tell you, but there we 
Siberian brambles had to fight for our lives just as you American brambles have 
done. The people of my country did not care for me; they called me "seedy." 
I was so very small they banished me from their gardens. I am glad to find in 
my new home one who makes me welcome." 

Early the next morning the air was so pure, the sunshine so refreshing, the 
birds sang and called so merrily to their mates that all the brambles decided to 
put on their white summer blossom trimmings. Soon fairy winged butterflies 
fluttered, and humming bees crooned around them. Then the master came. He 
visited Wild Siberia first and got some of the golden pollen. This he took on a 
watch crystal and put on the blossoms of the bramble. 

When the plants which grew from the seeds of these blossoms were old 
enough hundreds of snowy petals fluttered in the breeze ; but when the master 
came to examine them, he found that they had dropped their snowy blossoms and 
there was no fruit to reward his labors. It seemed as if the brambles were use- 
less after all and should have been left in their forest homes. 

The master decided, however, to give them a second trial the next season. 
Again in fruiting time every young berry pupil in the school was carefully exam- 
ined and as there were many thousands it required much valuable time. Just as 
the diligent instructor was about to give up he found one berry pupil that was 
worthy of promotion. 

You boys and girls who read these stories ought to be glad that in your 
school so many of you are sure of promotion, for in the plant school many hun- 
dreds, yes, even thousands, of plants try and fail. Only one little bramble passed 
the final in this severe work. But never a plant pupil was discouraged. 

The new berry which resulted from the cultivation of the bramble was large 
and juicy, about the size and shape of the evergreen blackberry and very dark in 
color. Vines were grown from seeds of these new berries that gave fruit earlier 
than any other known berry ; and still more, they continued to bear throughout the 
summer and were very productive. 

This proved to be an entirely new species of rubus. None like it ever ex- 
isted before, so Burbank named it "Primus," which means the first. 

It usually takes many generations of plants to fix a new fruit, but this new 
berry from, the wild Siberian raspberry and the wild dewberry of California, 
sometimes called the trailing blackberry, many thousands of seeds were planted 

t2 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

and every one came true, bearing Primus berries, proving that the species was 

Thus through skillful training two wild brambles, with uninviting qualities, 
have been made useful, and another creation has been given to the world. 


You will remember that Heuchera, the little wild geranium, came into the 
school at the same time the flowering currant entered ; but you did not hear how 
the geranium came to be found worthy of a place there. You will be quite inter- 
ested to know Heuchera more intimately, we feel sure; for she has developed a 
fine character through the training she received and she is now very distinguished. 

She was hanging over a mossy bank above a mountain stream near the gey- 
sers, about fifty miles north of Santa Rosa, when the master found her. The 
flowers, which remain beautiful a long time if placed in water, were all dried up ; 
and the leaves had turned very red. She seemed to be getting madder and mad- 
der, because she could not reach the clear, sparkling water below. There is a law 
in the plant world that chains them to the soil ; and this is one of their greatest 
difficulties, for it makes them so helpless. Perhaps hanging there a long time had 
affected her ; for you know if you hang with your head down, you get very red 
in the face. vStill she might have been only embarrassed. At any rate, it was 
a real kindness in the master to rescue her from her perilous position. 

''Almost perished for want of a good drink, that you have tried so hard to 
reach but could not, you poor thing," he said. ''Not even strong enough to make 
your' wants known. You shall have a drink right now, and plenty of refreshing- 
showers, when we get home. Then we will see what you are good for. You must 
have been very beautiful when you were in your prime. You are a child of the 
early summer I see." And he who believes a weed is but an unloved flower care- 
fully disentangled her rootlets from the mossy bed, and examined the one crisp 
leaf, that showed something yet of its former richness and delicate tracings. 

That was how she came to be in the big sack with the currant and other 
wildings. She was too weak and timid to tell this to them, and, although she was 
greatly refreshed from the cool drink, she had neither strength nor courage yet 
to hold up her head. 

But it was not long before this strange little wild beauty was wide awake 
and cheerful, growing thriftily to express her gratitude for the gentle mist that 
was sprayed upon her daily. The exquisite colorings of her gown, light green, 

64 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

red and brown were the next season in all their fullness ; and she proved to be a 
healthy, hardy child of the wildwood, one that was quite sturdy and willing to 

Her flowers were minute and dainty, and their airy loose panicles were very 
graceful. They were often given folk names or pet names by the country children, 
such as ''coral bells,'' and ''rosy morn," when they gathered them from their 
native haunts in the shady woods on the way to and from school. Once a year 
a "wild flower day," is held in many of the schools, when the children strive to 
excel in the number of kinds they can gather for the exhibit. These dainty bells 
are generally in evidence at that festival. 

The master knew there was a bright future for little Heuchera, as an orna- 
mental, or foliage plant. With her richly colored, finely veined leaves he was 
sure she would excel, so he placed her in that department, and her training for 
that purpose began. 

Selection alone, the prime method, which plays the all important part in 
plant improvement, was used. Seeds were sown and the best of the thousands 
of plant children w^ere chosen. At each visit of the master, Heuchera was en- 
couraged to deepen the tints of her gown and, especially to adorn it with more 
frills, and each time he found her increasing in loveliness, showing her to be 
obedient and studious. 

Nature is never in a hurry, but the master's endless patience and persever- 
ance sustained him till Nature at last gave him a victory; for Heuchera has the 
most exquisite and most highly colored foliage, as well as the most complicated 
leaf of all flowers. In this humble little plant, Burbank, the idealist, not the 
dreamer, saw the poetry and beauty of floral wealth and wrought it, as no poet 
with pen or artist with brush could, into a new life. 


It was one bright morning early in autumn that the workmen of the plant 
school were attracted by an unusual chatter in one of the walnut trees on the 

''Ah, I see," said the master when he came on his rounds, "you birds have 
found my paper-shell walnuts." And sure enough as he came closer he saw a 
pretty nut-hatch "auck, auck- aucking," and then burrowing with his long-pointed 
bill into the thin-shelled walnuts, newly developed, and now growing on a small 
tree. ''I see," he repeated to himself. 'Tve made those shells too thin." Then 
he realized that the birds were having a veritable feast. 

A big, flashily-dressed yellow hammer, forgetting his busy task of "thwack, 
thwack, thwacking," on the barn eaves, had come to see about the discovery of the 
nut-hatch. From his hunting ground among the thornless blackberry bushes the 
towhee came calling "chewink, chewink, chewink." Three catbirds, being at- 
tracted by the noise, flitted to r.he walnut trees and soon cried out "zuay, zuay," 
while two sap-suckers, which had been the lone occupants of the walnut plot, be- 
fore the nut-hatch made his discovery, circled around the trunk of a large tree, 
one after the other. They occasionally stopped to listen to the din caused by a 
number of jays fishing about screaming and scolding excitedly their "ike, ike, ike," 
seeming to say, "At last we have found the prize, w<^ can get the walnut kernels 

The woodpecker was the wisest bird among the visitors for he ceased his ka- 
rah-ka and darted off to a nearby grove with a walnut in his beak, no doubt in 
search of a dead tree trunk in which he could lay up his winter's store. 

The master stood for a time watching his little feathered friends. He did 
not want to harm them for they are very useful in destroying insects that injure 
the trees and fruits, but he finally decided that he would have to train his walnut 
trees to bear nuts with thicker shells although it took him many years to train a 
tree to bear such thin-shelled nuts. 

Years and years ago most of the walnuts were brought into California from 
France, Germany and England. At that time nuts were considered unwholesome. 

66 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

They were not eaten as daily food, for those then offered for sale, in the stores, 
were tough, the kernel was sometimes covered with mold; the skin over the 
kernel was dark and contained a large abount of tannin, a chemical substance used 
in tanning leather. This tanning caused the mouth to smart and burn when the 
nut was eaten. But worst of all many of the nuts had worms in them and could 
not be used at all. The nuts then raised in California were of different sizes and 
shapes and many contained the puckery tannin. 

While investigating this subject in search of a better nut to train, the master 
heard of a tree in the business section of San Francisco which bore delicious 
nuts in abundance. The tree was to be immediately destroyed as the ground 
was needed for building purposes. He purchased the last crop of nuts which 
this valuable tree produced every one of which was planted. 

The trees resulting were mostly quite ordinary, but two or three bore nuts m 
many respects even better than the nuts produced by the original tree. Fiom the 
best two of these trees many more were raised. Among these, two still better 
ones appeared. By continuing this process for a time a tree was produced which 
yielded nuts when only three years of age, and every succeeding year, its limbs 
were full of fine sweet nuts, which were almost round. The shell was very light 
colored and very thin. The skin covering the meat was pale yellow, almost white, 
and contained none of the puckery tannin found in the older varieties of nuts. 

This nut ripens a month or more before other walnuts are ready to harvest. 
In the coast counties of California where there is much fog it is sometimes sub- 
ject to blight like most other walnuts, but being so early, so delicious, so fine in 
appearance, and the trees so very productive it is a standing living manifestation 
of what selection alone can do. 

Thousands of walnut trees are now growing which have been grafted to the 
"Santa Rosa Soft Shell." 

The **ka-rah-ka" of the woodpecker and the ''ike, ike, ike" of the blue jay are 
sometimes yet heard in the walnut trees although the master chose, for grafts, 
those with somewhat thicker shell than the first produced. 


"Oh, the rose, the rose, the queen of the garden, has come !" chimed on the 
soft June air. Every flower child danced for joy, and every fruit child waved its 
arms in a welcome greeting. 

Yes, the queen was there, the dear queen, Hermosa, still wearing her pink 
gown, looking a wee bit old-fashioned, to be sure ; but as sweet and profuse in 
her offerings as ever she was. 

People learned to love Hermosa, long ago, and even now with such a wealth 
of roses of all shades and colors, no garden seems complete without her. True, 
her blooms are quite small, sometimes, but there are always so many of them 
to make up for their lack in size. But you do as the director of the plant school 
does and watch the effect. He is always mindful that the plant people have 
plenty of room, plenty of rich soil and all the sunshine they need, so that they 
can grow as children do, who have a good, big play ground and plenty of whole- 
some food. 

Plermosa came into the school on a special mission, for a new rose had been 
planned by the master — a rose for everybody. Her ever-blooming quality was 
one of the leading elements needed in this new creation. Hermosa is probably 
the best known of any one in the entire rose world; but, as she rarely produced 
seeds, no one up to that time had tried to improve her. 

You probably know that the rose family is a very distinguished old family, 
and also a very large one. We cannot tell you where the first grandmother rose 
came from, but a great many of the roses of today came from the far east. So 
the first rose may have lived in the Garden of Eden, though whether she was 
a tiny little plant, a vine, a shrub, or a great big tree we cannot tell you now, or 
whether she grew thorns or not, for it was so long ago. Some believe firmly that 
a cousin of the rose, the apple, was a resident of that garden. 

We are told that to be an aristocrat in the plant world is to be a descendant 
from a long line of plants that have kept on improving ; so the rose, it seems to us, 
must be an aristocrat. This, we know, the rose is the emblem of beauty and de- 
light and that the rosebud is a figure or symbol of innocence and purity. The 

68 Stories of Luther Biirbank's Plant School 

school was greatly honored in the advent of the rose, and there was no wonder 
a quiver of joyous excitement went through the garden when she entered. 

After Hermosa other roses came to assist. Among these was Bon Silene, 
noted for the beautiful form of her buds and for the profusion of her blooms, 
which were a deep rose color shading to carmine. 

Hermosa, like all plants, wanted to grow and bear seeds; and, like them, all 
she asked was to be made comfortable. The more we study plants the more we 
admire their ways of attaining success, and the more we respect their likes and 
dislikes. Roses are especially fond of rich loam, and you may be sure that they 
received this as well as all aids to successful improvement in the plant school. 
They were not crowded in the least nor choked by greedy plants. They are 
rather fond of small flowers at their feet, but nothing must shoulder them. These 
are among the likes and dislikes of the rose. 

The few seeds, which Hermosa gave as her first offering to the master, were 
planted with great care; and when they felt their coverings becoming moist, the 
seed babies began to think of awakening and stretching their limbs and, perhaps 
smiling and yawning and cooing, as real babies do. 

It was not a great while before a flush of pink ran along the row, for each 
of Hermosa's babies wore the distinctive pink gown. The master at seeing and 
the master at feeling discerned through his own unique knowledge which of these 
little pink princesses should remain with him to assist in the creation of the new 
rose and which must be sent over to the plant paradise. The school is filled with 
strong, healthy plants, as the result of his choosing of the best only, for plant 
improvement. They need less coaxing and petting than those of delicate con- 
stitutions and are always more attractive. 

When the second generation of princesses were in full bloom, Bon Silene 
came into use, uniting its beautiful form with the fine qualities of Hermosa's 
healthy offsprings, by giving golden dust to apply to them. 

After this many thousands of rose plants were seen growing in the nursery 
on the Gold Ridge grounds at one time. When these were all blooming, we think, 
must have been the time when Burbank heard them say this to the other children : 

"See what we have to offer you, beautiful roses! Help yourselves; but we 
are frail bushes, so do not be too rough, else you may feel the stings of our armor, 
which we still have to wear." At least the master tells the children that rose 
bushes say this. 

From the third generation of pink princesses crossed with Bon Silene came 

The Rose and Her Part 69 

two fine new roses, the Santa Rosa, which had been planned ,and another that was 
christened "Burbank." The Santa Rosa is a wonderful rose in brilHancy of 
color, size and habit of growth. Each little one commences to bloom as soon 
as it starts from a cutting and grows freely and easily, blooming right along. 
Its flowers are a rich shell-pink, inclining to crimson, full and double. It is truly 
a rose for everybody. 

The Burbank rose, like its creator, has great energy and enthusiasm. It 
begms to bloom when quite small and continues to bloom throughout the year, if 
the climate is not too severe. In cold climates it rests during the winter and 
comes forth at the first call of spring. It is double and of fine form. Its color 
is deep rose-pink, and it is so delightfully fragrant that it would do you good to 
bury your nose in its sweetness. The Burbank is the freest bloomer in the rose 
world; and it was awarded the gold medal at the Louis and Clark World's Fair 
in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. This was won over all competitors as being 
the best bedding rose in existence. 

Burbank is exceedingly fond of the rose, and has sent other noted ones from 
the school to gladden rose-lovers. One of these, the Corona, is indeed a rare and 
charming flower. It is a climber, produced by scientific selection alone from seed- 
lings of the Crimson rambler. Its flowers resemble Chinese primroses more than 
they do real roses, and they grow in very large clusters. It is a fine bloomer and 
forms a bower of rare loveliness throughout the season. Its blossoms possess a 
quality entirely new in the rose, which causes the flowers to remain fresh on the 
bushes for weeks, where others fade and drop their petals in a few days. 


When the apple decided to enter school, it did not tell the master that it is 
one of Nature's oldest fruit-children and that the lessons it had learned would be 
hard to forget or that the habits it had formed would be hard to break ; but we are 
sure that he knew this for it was one of the first friends of his childhood. 

On his father's New England farm the frosts of spring often blighted the 
early blooming plum, pear and peach; but the buds on the apple trees kept their 
cloaks folded tightly until Jack Frost's reign was succeeded by warm sunshine. 
Then the delicate pink and white blossoms threw off the cloak of brown and 
among the green foliage sang the robin, the wren and the thrush on their re- 
turn from winter homes in the tropics. 

As the blossoms faded away and the tiny apples formed, then reddened, and 
finally acquired stripes of carmine and of gold, the different varieties were closely 
watched and studied. It was he who discovered the first faint coloring of the 
Red June, and Williams. He became acquainted with the names of the many 
kinds, for one of his early treasures was a book with pictures of the different 
fruits in outline. Many of these may now be seen in the same old book shaded 
by irregular pencilings made by boyish fingers. 

As some of the trees in the orchard bore inferior fruit, George, his older 
brother, decided to secure scions from the best varieties of apples of that time 
and graft the trees. Luther was then only five or six years of age but he became 
interested in his brother's work, he could not quite understand why the fine large 
limbs of his favorite trees should be cut off. His brother explained the process, 
however, and the little boy took delight in watching the grafts grow. 

After the third summer, when the grafted limbs began to bear and the round 
juicy Baldwins ripened, while the ungrafted branches were filled with poor fruit 
young Luther decided that grafting was surely of much use. 

The harvest time was a joyous season when the Williams, Gilliflower, Bald- 
win, Greening, and Russet were each, in its turn, gathered in great baskets and 
stored in bins and barrels for winter's use making the cellar rich with their 

The Fireside Fruit 71 

For two weeks each fall the carpet of the large living room was removed, 
the ample fire place opened, and, on cranes were hung big brass kettles for boil- 
ing cider. Then, as the flames laughed and roared up the throat of the great 
chimney the family in quiet mirth, encircled the hearth, pared and quartered the 
apples for the winter's supply of cider apple sauce. The story of Johnny Ap- 
pleseed, the eccentric character who planted seeds of fruit trees in the wilds of 
the Ohio Valley, 1801-1847, and those of other heroes of early times were often 
rehearsed. Many happy winter evenings were passed around the New England 

''The mug of cider simmered slow — 
The apples sputtered in a row 
And close at hand the basket stood 
With nuts from brown October's wood." 

Here, no doubt, was formed the love for the apple which helped to give to the 
future scientist patience and skill to add to the already long list still other and bet- 
ter varieties of apples. 

One of the first apple pupils was his old time friend the WiUiams. The 
master of the school, wishing to develop the fruit, planted seeds from this apple 
and as apple seedlings vary greatly,, never coming true, there was a great variety 
of young tree pupils to train. All those giving promise of better fruit were graft- 
ed upon a large strong tree. In the arms of this were rocked seventy-five varie- 
ties of apples. When they ripened, they were of many sizes, shapes and colors ; 
red, green, yellow, striped, splashed and dotted. Some were inferior, others of 
especially fine quality. 

They were exhibited at the Stanford University by Burbank, who was, at 
that time, a member of the faculty, and used them to illustrate a lecture. They 
were afterwards placed on exhibition at the San Francisco ferry building. 

Burbank now chose one of the best of all apples, the Gravenstein, for 
special training. Thousands of seeds of this fruit were planted and thousands 
of young tree pupils were soon in training. Selecting the best from this vast 
number would seem an insurmountable task for most people, but Burbank has 
hundreds and sometimes thousands of such experiments under way at one time. 
Selections are made by him, but assistants do the planting, cultivating and graft- 

The Gravenstein pupils remained in the school for many years that the best 
might be found, then an apple was graduated which ripens later than the Graven- 

y2 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

stein and is called the Winterstein. The trees are strong and heavy bearers. The 
large juicy apples are yellow with stripes of rosy red. 

Believing it possible that another good apple could be improved he chose the 
Newtown Pippin as a pupil. Many seeds were planted, and when promotions 
were made the best were selected from the thousands. After years of training an- 
other apple was graduated and given the name of the school, ''Gold Ridge." This 
is a pale, yellow apple with a crimson blush on one side. It is large, smooth, of 
beautiful form and fine quality. It ripens earlier than its ancestor the Newtown 
Pippin. Thus one of Nature's oldest fruit children has been cherished, nurtured, 
and disciphned by the teacher and the present year, 19 13, finds many hundreds 
of unnamed apple pupils in the plant school. The fruit on these young trees dif- 
fers in size, color and quality. Most of these will be found wanting when the 
final testing time comes, but others, no doubt, will live for many a decade to send 
their rich fruit to happy firesides to grace the golden winter evenings passed by 
circles of joyous friends. 


Standing at the head of the class of distinctively new fruits is a pupil of such 
renown tha[t, ''All the world wonders." It wonders not, in this instance, at the 
daring of a ''noble six hundred," but at the daring of a searcher after Nature's 

Men in high authority upon plant growth said, "No use to try," "It cannot 
be done." "A waste of time to experiment." "Such crosses never have been, and 
never can be successful. Members of so widely differing species cannot be 

These and many other discouraging messages reached the ear of the master 
of the plant school. Still, "Right through the line he broke," as Tennyson said, 
though warnings "Volleyed and thundered" from scientific cannons all around 
this great earth. 

Patiently and with unabating perseverance the master toiled on, not into the 
jaws of defeat on the field of battle, but to one of the greatest victories yet re- 
corded in the field of horticulture. As a result of this perseverance Plumcot 
ranks first in the class of new products of the plant school, although many other 
new fruits and flowers have been given to the world. 

Wishing, if possible, to develop an entirely new fruit, the master chose as his 
especial charge a plant pupil from Japan ; for he has learned through years of 
experimentation that, in order to get results from cross pollenation it is better, 
sometimes, that plants come from widely distant countries. The Japanese phim 
had also many good qualities to recommend it. 

On a bright morning in spring when this stranger from Japan was decked 
with white blossoms the master came, bringing to many of these blossoms golden 
pollen from one of his apricot trees. 

It was at this time that learned and wise men declared, "It cannot be done." 
Burbank said, "We will try." 

You may be sure that all the fertilized blooms were watched and when the 
fruiting season arrived, seeds saved for planting. PVom the first the young trees 
from the cross varied greatly, some were more like the plum, others like the 

74 Stones of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

apricot. The leaves were also changed, they were larger than those of the plum, 
and in shape somewhat like those of the apricot. The character of the tree was 
greatly changed. 

It is now twenty years since Plumcot came into existence, and although a 
promising pupil from the first it has been under constant training. A great 
amount of care and expense have been bestowed upon it, yet never through all 
these years, has the master lost faith in his experiment. 

During this time other crosses have been made ; pollen from some of the best 
American plums having been successfully used upon the plumcot. A long series 
of scientific selection followed cross pollenation. ''Without selection," sa3/s Bur- 
bank, ''pollenation is of little use." 

Tens of thousands of plumcots have been in school, and as a result of careful 
training four large classes have been graduated and a delicious new fruit has 
been added to the dietary of the world. 

Many other varieties are still in training, some of which are even more prom- 
ising than those already sent out. The future will no doubt witness as great and 
as w^orthy an array of plumcot graduates as the past has seen of plum graduates. 

The first to leave the school was "Rutland." The tree resembles the weeping 
willow. Its long swinging branches, thickly set with bright green leaves form 
graceful arches over head. When the fruit is fully ripe, its deep purple velvety 
skin adds new beauty to the tree. The color of the flesh of the Rutland plumcot 
is a brilliant red. In size the fruit excels its near relative the plum. 

**Apex" is a later and far superior graduate. In this the tree is somewhat 
like the plum but the fruit is almost as round as a ball. Its skin is a rosy pink, 
but the flesh is a bright yellow. Apex is a freestone, while Rutland's juicy meat 
clings as closely to the stone as does that of a cling stone peach. 

A third to be graduated is the "Triumph." This tree resembles the Rut- 
land, but the fruit is apricot like and has a purple skin, dotted with scarlet. The 
flesh is a deep crimson. 

The fourth of the plumcot class to receive the diploma is the "Corona." This 
is as large as most apricots, is golden yellow with pink cheeks, and the flesh is 

All have distinct and unique flavors — a combination of the plum and apri- 
cot, yet unlike either. Each new variety brings new flavors, and although those 
that have been sent out are delicious, those that are almost ready to leave the 
school surpass in size, flavor and abundance the first varieties. 

The Plumcot 75 

Now that the success of the unusual experiment is fully assured let each boy 
and girl who reads these stories be more firmly convinced that, 
"They can conquer who believe they can/' 


'*I AM bitter ; please take me and make me sweet," pleaded a small voice, al- 
most choked with dust, as Burbank drove by one lovely autumn day. 

The little currant held out its small blue berries covered with dense bloom, 
as if to show him what it had tried to do for itself. 

His eye ever alert, his ear ever at the heart of nature, and his sympathies 
never failing, he heard the call of this little country child. He saw its helpless 
condition, and understood its longing for different environment. 

Springing out of his buggy, he came close up to it, saying, "Ah, ha ! so you 
would Hke to go to school and have me teach you with these other wildings I have 
here, would you ? Come along, then, and we'll see what we can do for you ; but 
remember, you must be obedient, and wiUing to help others, as well as to help 
yourself, if you wish to be made sweet." 

He tenderly lifted her up, and little Hopeful soon found herself in the back 
of his buggy jogging along toward Santa Rosa. The wood folk soon grew very 
sociable, for they were all together in one great gunny sack. 

A brodieae said in rather an important way, "I'm going in for purity. I'm 
going to have my dress made white, for I heard him say so." 

"I'm going to help train the eastern lilies," put in the spotted tiger lily. 

"Well, all 1 want is to get rid of this puckery bitterness," ventured Hope- 
ful, "for people turn away from me in disgust ; and I can never do any good in 
my present condition. I would try to grow more pulp but for that. What is 
the use?" 

"It seems strange you speak of being so bitter when you carry such a de- 
lightful fragrance with you," remarked the wild geranium, who was also known 
as Heuchera. 

"Oh, that's just it. They call me the incense shrub, because of my spicy odor ; 
but, when they taste my fruit, they cast it away quickly with, 'Bah, but she's 

The currant did not see the brodieae, the tiger lily, nor the Heuchera, for 
a long time after this; for its department in the school was far removed from the 

The Flowering Currant yy 

lily plot, and the one assigned Heuchera, as well. But she held them in loving 
remembrance, hoping to meet with them again some day. 

The next morning after her arrival, as she was admiring the pupils near 
her, who seemed to be in her class, her eye fell upon one quite close, that was 
wonderfully like herself in many ways. Upon inquiry, she learned that it had 
been brought down from British Columbia, and was, no doubt, a blood relative 
of hers. This caused her heart to grow lighter — a feeling of contentment stole 
over her, and she began to enjoy her beautiful situation more and more. 

When she put her mind upon her advancement, she learned many things 
about herself and her family that had never reached her in the great open, for 
gossip is not rife there as it is in thickly settled places. 

An English visitor to the school, coming upon her one day, exclaimed to the 
teacher. "Why, you have here our flowering currant. We prize it highly in 
Europe as an ornamental shrub, on account of its bright, graceful blooms. What 
are you doing with it?" 

''You probably know that it is a native of the Pacific coast," said Burbank. 
''I hope to persuade it to leave off" its bad habits of bitterness and seedy little 
pulp, and train it to grow good, sweet luscious fruit for your tarts and jellies. It 
will then become useful to you, as well as ornamental." 

Little Hopeful was listening, and you should have seen the long clusters of 
bright pink flowers with which she decked her clear, brilliant green foliage. They 
were the very incarnation of the spirit of spring, and they quickened one's 
senses into anticipation of beauty everywhere. And her numerous glands exuded 
such heavy perfume that everyone paused to admire her, and some one exclaimed, 
"How refreshing this dear little thing is in her native grace ! Her simple ways 
are so charming." 

Now, there were in the primary near at hand a number of little pupils grown 
from the seeds of the currant from British Columbia, some of which showed great 
promise. Their foliage was fine, and their deep pink — almost scarlet — blooms 
were very attractive. Many of the flowers were larger and there were a greater 
number of blossoms in a cluster than their parent had produced. 

The teacher came one morning with some yellow dust, which was given 
him by one of these little Britishers, and placed it upon Hopeful's bright bloom, 
felling her to nourish it, and to make a great big effort to throw off her bitter- 
ness, and to become juicy and sweet. 

She heard a whisper as the pollen touched her stigma. It said, "Wake up,. 

yS Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

and grow." Then she reahzed that she was learning her lesson. She had never 
had anyone to take an interest in her before, and no one had seemed to care 
whether she advanced or not. 

The next season little pupils of her own were blooming all around her ; and, 
as she compared them with the others she had seen, it appeared to her that many 
of them were in every way superior. She was sure she was right when she saw 
the master-prover placing tags upon some of them. And again, when he came 
at fruiting time, he selected those that had long clusters of fat, ripe fruit. By 
the way he looked when he tasted them, she knew her longing was to be satis- 

Another year passed, and the seeds from the chosen ones were planted in 
large numbers. Selections were in time made from these, and a few proved 
worthy to be promoted for higher culture in flavor and lusciousness. 

A new kind of currant is soon to go out from the plant school. It promises 
to have a finer aroma than any yet known of its kind, and it is quite hardy. Bur- 
bank is extremely careful never to present to the world any production unless it 
is equal in all points, and superior in some way to anything of the kind ever be- 
fore produced. So when he shall present this new currant — Hopeful, in her 
graduation gown — she will make quite a stir in the currant world, you may be 
sure, for she has learned well her lesson of obedience, and made good in the plant 


One: might think it impossible for the student body of a plant school to en- 
gage in athletics, but really, it is quite as feasible as for our boys and girls of the 
grammar and high schools to enjoy the low hurdle or the running high jump. 

The athletes in the Burbank plant school seem to be among the tree pupils. 
Of these the walnut takes the lead. To most horticulturists it would seem im- 
possible to improve the slow growing black walnut tree, in fact, so far as is 
known, Burbank is the first man to try to break the life habits of this tree. Fear 
of failure does not daunt him, nothing in the plant world is too difficult for him 
to attempt. Where Nature is the slowest and where her plant children are the 
most deficient he is especially anxious to enter. 

Walnut pupils were brought into the school about the year 1886. The first 
two to enter were the native California black walnut and the English walnut. 
Pollen was taken from the English walnut and placed on the stigma of the black 
walnut and when the nuts ripened they were planted. The young trees were 
allowed to grow until they were large enough to be grafted onto the arms of a 
strcfng, large walnut tree. When these grafts bore fruit other trees were raised. 
The process continued until as many as ten thousand walnut pupils were found 
in the school at one time. Athletes were to be selected from among ten thousand. 

Among these ten thousand pupils many strangely clad were seen. The leaves 
of some were small and had from three to seven leaflets on either side of the stem, 
others were large with nine, eleven and fifteen leaflets. Some were rough, others 
glossy, others smooth. Many of the young trees resembled the black walnut, 
many the English, while some were unlike either parent tree Some of the trees 
grew slowly, others were hustlers. One of the fastest growers carried a perfume, 
for the leaf when crushed gave a delightful fragrance resembling that of an ap- 
ple and as lasting as the odor of the violet. 

The variation in nuts, that these trees bore, was almost as great as that of 
the leaf. There were large nuts and small nuts ; nuts with thick shell and bitter 
kernel and some with thin shell and sweet kernel. Some trees were heavy bear- 
ers, others bore very little fruit, and some, none. 

8o Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

But as the master was training this especial class in rapidity of growth, the 
best young racers were placed in long rows in the school. We feel sure they 
were as strictly attentive to the orders of the coach, as if they were 
intending to train for the Olympic games. No strong drink nor tobacco 
w^ere indulged in and as for keeping late hours, why, they were ready to sing 
good night with the sunset breezes and to awaken in the morning at the first call 
of birds in the tree tops. 

As the training progressed there were many try-outs, and, as the coach se- 
lected the fastest growers for further team work, no doubt great rounds of "rah,, 
rah, rah," were sent up by the admiring plant pupils for the victors. 

After years of patient labor the coach chose from among his Paradox pupils 
a team of six young athletes. These he placed in the hard earth along the street 
in front of his dwelling. They must now do their best without further training 
and receive no nourishment other than that gathered through their own efforts. 
Across the street opposite the athletes stood another row of trees. These were 
the English walnut. They had more than fifteen years the start of the Paradox, 
and were in highly cultivated soil, but the athletes had been in training, you know, 
so they must have felt quite sure of winning. 

In a plant school a race extends through a period of years instead of a few 
seconds as in a school for boys and girls. 

How those young Paradox racers ran ! The slogan for the race was, "Smash 
the record," and they seemed determined to smash it. At the end of the third 
year, such enormously long arms had been sent out and such thickness of body 
w^as displayed that they began to create quite an excitement in the community. 
Even the passerby observed the swiftness. No doubt the other plant pupils gazed 
v»ath admiration across the fence at their team and as the wind whistled through 
their branches sang, 

We will love you, "Doxies," if you beat them. 
We'll stand by you, "Doxies," if you don't. 
You surel}^ are the cream. 
You're the picked, the winning team, 
You're our own "Doxies" ! 

Those Paradox racers took courage, surely, as the student yells were sung 
by the breezes and echoed and re-echoed from "Doxie" to "Doxie." 

The excitement and general interest became intense as farmers, laborers, 
and merchants, came and went along the street between the two rows of trees. 

The Athletes 8i 

Burbank's walnut pupils on one side of the street increased at an incredible 
rate often being encouraged by the class yell, 

"Rah! rah! rah! 
Who are we? 
We are the "Doxies," 
The winning tree. 

The sturdy English opponents across the street continued the same slow pace 
that had been theirs for ages. For fourteen years the race continued then the 
timekeepers called the finish. It was evident that the trained athletes had won 
the race for the announcement was published far and wide that the Paradox had 
grown in fourteen years almost six times as much as the English had in thirty 
years and at the height of six feet from the ground some of the winning trees 
were six feet in circumference, while their branch spread was seventy-five feet. 

Of course there was great rejoicing in the school. Why not? The race 
was fairly won, besides the "Doxies" had shovv^n more "class" than their opponents. 

The judges, however were tradesmen of different kinds. They came for- 
ward with grave and knowing faces. The lumberman declared: 

"The grain of all rapid growing trees is very soft, therefore, the wood is 
unfit for interior finishing and cabinet work; for strength and durability the 
wood from trees of slow growth is unequaled." 

The coach, being wise, and ready for such criticism, had prepared a limb of 
one of the Paradox athletes for inspection. As the lumberman continued his 
sarcastic speech, a block from the Paradox was handed him. He immediately took 
his knife from his pocket and tested the wood for hardness. His fingers passed 
rapidly over the smooth sawed surface. His grave countenance quickly took on 
a look of vexation, as he reluctantly acknowledged that the Paradox not only 
equaled, but excelled the older varieties of walnut wood in hardness and beauty. 

At the beginning of the lumberman's remarks the uncultivated plum pupils, 
surely looked very sour and as he continued his harangue there was a fearful 
bz-z-z-z among the pines ; but when at last he was forced to admit his defeat who 
can blame the rooters for the cry, 


'em the axe, axe, axe, 


'em the axe, axe, axe. 


'em the axe, 


'em the axe. 


'em the axe. 


82 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

Right in the bark, bark, bark, 
Right in the bark, bark, bark, 
Right in the bark, 
Right in the bark. 
Right in the bark. 
There ! 
Quiet again being restored the cabinet maker and the polisher took the stand. 
The cabinet maker examined the wood and with his pocket rule laid across the 
surface of the block exclaimed, — 

*'Why! the annual growth is fully an inch — an excellent lumber for furni- 
ture, veneers, and ornamental wood work." 

Then the polisher applied his test and announced the wood unexcelled for 
smoothness and fitness for polish. 

Now came a fearful rebuff from the friends of the English. 
"The Paradox have not won all the points," said they, ''see what a quantity 
of rich nuts these beautiful trees bear while the Paradox bears very few." 

The judges shook their v/ise heads and said, "Who ever heard of racers 
bearing heavy loads?" 

At this the bleachers almost went wild- 
Zip! Boom! Bah! 
Rah! Rah! Rah! 

Ninety million, eighty thousand, seven, sixty-seven 
That's what they think they bear. 
They bear but ten or 'leven. 
The judges were united in this general conclusion, — 

"As the Paradox will grow faster than any other tree of the Temperate 
Zone it will no doubt prove a blessing to mankind in reforesting the earth." 
My ! what a noise when this was announced. 


One often wonders how the teacher of the plant school was able to make 
such a wonderful change in the cherry. The plump Royal Ann, as she is now, 
with her blushing pink cheek is admired by every lover of nature, as she grace- 
fully hangs from her slender stem, or peeps from beneath her canopy of green 
leaves. During the months of May and June she seems perfect. When one 
visits an orchard of these trees and is permitted to taste the fruit further 
improvement seems hardly possible. 

The Black Tartarian, also when fully ripe, is delicious. It is so^ sweet and 
juicy when first taken from the tree, one wonders how it could be made better, 
but the master, in his vision sees cherries far superior to any yet produced. 

The first cherry pupil was the purple Guigne, noted for its earliness. The 
teacher wished it to become still larger, earlier, sweeter, and more productive. 
Even a day's difference in ripening of the cherry crop means much to the Cali- 
fornia producer for the first fruits of the season are shipped east and bring high 

So the work was begun. Thousands of pits were saved from the Guigne 
and soon the kindergarten was full of young cherry pupils. All the best were 
later promoted to Gold Ridge. They were grafted onto large strong trees, many 
hundreds being put on each tree. From^ the best of these, seeds were saved 
and other trees grown. The process of selection in this case was a long one and 
continued for many years before the first cherry pupil was graduated. This 
tree was sold, and the proud purchasers named it ''The Burbank Cherry" in honor 
of the master. 

The new tree is vigorous, and never fails to produce large quantities of 
luscious fruit. The leaves are large and grow so close together that the plump 
black cherries are well protected from the birds. When it rains, this heavy foli- 
age serves also as an umbrella to the fruit and keeps it from cracking. 

The Royal Ann, before mentioned as being so nearly perfect, was early ad- 
mitted to the school. This distinguished pupil is of French origin. It has been 

84 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

a favorite for a hundred years or more. Its correct name is "Napoleon," al- 
though in the west it is commonly called Royal Ann. 

The Napoleon has a few faults. When its rosy cheeks are washed by a 
Ma}- shower its skin cracks, this spoils its beauty and usefulness. Sometimes the 
tree fails to bear, at other times the crop is very light, but by many people these 
faults are overlooked and it is still called the Royal cherry. 

As usual when Burbank began to train the Napoleon many, many thou- 
sands of pits were planted and for years the class received constant care, and selec- 
tion of the best was made from year to year until finally a descendent of this 
time-honored cherry was graduated. 

The graduate is ^ far rosier than its noted great grand parent, its skin is 
mAich darker, its flesh is sweeter, a shower does not harm it, and it has never 
been known to fail to produce a good crop. This cherry has been given the 
very appropriate name, ''Abundance." 

The ''Giant'' is another member of the cherry class. Its training, too, has 
been long and severe. Its distant relative is the Black Tartarian, but its educa- 
tion has fitted it for greater usefulness than the Tartarian. It has to date of 
this writing — 1913 — proven to be the best cherry in existence. The tree excels 
the Tartarian in productiveness. The fruit is of superior size, quality and flavor. 
Eleven of these new cherries lying side by side measure twelve and one-half 
inches. Four or five weigh an ounce. The skin is black and glossy, the flesh is 
dark and luscious, the tree is strong, upright and a rapid grower. 

One might think that the master should be content having so many cherry 
graduates, but he is not. Very little scientific work had ever before been done 
to improve the cherry. That it can be developed almost beyond imagination is 
shown by the results of work already accomplished. There are at present 
near one thousand varieties of cherries in the Gold Ridge school. There is one 
tree with over two hundred different varieties grafted upon it. In the bearing 
season some will be ripe while others are yet forming and there are all grada- 
tions between these extremes. It is an interesting study to observe the variation 
of foliage and fruit. Some cherries are small but exceedingly sweet, and some 
are very sour. Some have the flavor of grapes, others taste like the apple, and 
many are far better than the older kinds. There are also peculiar shapes, one is 
long and pointed, another oblate, like an apple, some look like small plums. 

Two of the new cherries are still earher than the "Burbank" heretofore 
mentioned, but many ripen very late. Some are exceedingly productive and 

Cherries 85 

give promise of being the best of shipping and canning cherries. There are cher- 
ries in training that have never failed to bear fruit and have never been known 
to crack even after a hard rain. 

It is well known that the acid, which gives the cherry its sour taste, is very 
)i\^holesonie, especially for children ; but if one drinks milk with cherries, the acid 
causes a hard tough cheese to form in the stomach. This cheese will not digest 
and sometimes causes death. Rich cream is not affected by the acid, so cherries 
and pure cream may be eaten together. 

The instructor in the plant school says: "Tell the children we are going to 
get them some better and sweeter and larger cherries than any they have ever 
yet seen, but this will take a long time and a great deal of work, still we will 
keep trying until we succeed." 

Just think of the time when we shall have cherries as large as big plums ; 
so large that we shall cut them in two to can them as we do peaches. And then 
we shall also have many different kinds, some will ripen early and others very 
late, and some will grow and bear in a cold climate. 



The great vines of wild grapes clinging with their delicate tendrils to the 
tall trees and swaying in the wind, were no doubt enjoyed by the little Indian 
boys and girls of North America hundreds of years ago with the same en- 
thusiasm that the white children today feel when in vacation time they camp by 
the river's bank and swing on the vines. 

The beauty of the grape has been sung all down the ages. Even Greek 
mythology is enriched by stories of the vine. Through cultivation the fruit was 
improved and developed by the ancients until it early became renowned in the far 

One would think that the grape, being so old, would not need further train- 
ing but plant pupils of all kinds are admitted to the school. 

As a child Luther Burbank learned to love the grape, as he did many other 
plants, not for the luscious fruit alone, but for the grace of vine, delicacy of ten- 
dril, and beauty of leaf. 

Clinging close to the south wall of his father's house in Massachusetts was 
a vine of Isabella grapes. From the time it was planted Luther watched it and 
studied its growth. He learned that the buds appeared in early spring, then the 
leaves, after them the blossoms and finally if sly Jack Frost found the sunny 
south side of the house too warm for his icy fingers large bunches of purple 
grapes were gathered and some were carefully placed in a cool, dry room where 
they remained as fresh as the apples of the orchard into the early winter 

When Burbank came to California this friend of his childhood was not for- 
gotten. He studied grapes grown on the coast but found few among them 
which had come from New England. Many varieties from Europe and Asia 
were raised and the Missions brought to the state by the early Mission fathers 
were found on almost every homestead. The grape industry flourished through- 
out the beautiful valley wherein the scientist chose his home. 

In the plant school seeds were planted from the Black Hamburg, Muscat 
of Alexandria, Rose of Peru, Tokay, Mission and the Eastern grapes, the Con- 

The Earliest Grape 87 

cord, Catawba, Isabella, Early Amber and Niagara, and numerous wild varieties 
from vSouth America and China; but none worthy of graduation were produced 
although thousands were raised. 

Peculiar and as yet unexplained conditions often occur in plant growth. 
In Santa Clara Valley among an acreage of Isabella grapes one vine was found 
on which was a branch of extraordinary size and great rapidity of growth. This 
branch bore leaves unusual in size, and grapes much larger than those on the 
surrounding branches or vines. The berry was also superior in quality to the 

This new grape which nature caused to spring from the Isabella vine was 
very properly named 'Tierce," from the man on whose farm the grape origin- 
ated. Burbank procured some cuttings from the Pierce and raised the fruit for 
the purpose of getting seeds of this new bud variation. Among the very nu- 
merous seedlings all had some faint resemblance to the Isabella in both vine and 
fruit but there were peculiar traits among them also. 

On some of the vines the bunches were long and slender, on others they were 
short and thick. The berries varied in size, color, flavor, and time of ripening. 
Some were large and luscious, others were small, sour, and seedy. The colors 
were white, light cream, amber and rich royal purple. 

There was as great a variety of leaves as of fruit ; on some vines the leaves 
were small and shaped like an English ivy leaf, on others, unusually large and 
of many different forms. 

Among these many peculiar seedlings about a half dozen bore yellowish 
white fruit. One kind has a delightful aroma, and a flavor not found in any 
other grape, more like the European varieties than the Isabella, but much finer in 
quality. Another, an extremely late and unusually large grape, is very delicious 
and in the mild climate of California it will keep on the vines until Christmas 
and New Year if protected from heavy rains. 

Thus we see how strangely plants vary when taken under training and 
grown from seed. From this experiment by selection alone, one of the earliest 
grapes ever known was produced, and also one of the latest. 

•'This is not a wine grape," said Luther Burbank when asked if any 
of the new varieties excelled as a wine product. Then looking at the questioner 
with eyes full of thoughtful emotion as if penetrating far into the future he 
added : 

"The continued use of wine destroys the finer qualities of both body 

S8 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

and mind. Tell the children I have never produced a superior wine ^rape and 
that if I ever do produce one it shall be at once destroyed. No wine grape will 
ever be sent into the world from my experimental grounds." 


Two little pupils from Japan once came to the plant school. Very dis- 
tinguished they were, for they were sent from the garden of the Mikado. They 
were already of considerable worth else they would not have had so distinguished 
jSi home in the far East. Indeed, they were greatly admired by children of Japan, 
for every year during blossom festivals they gave delight to many kimona-clad 
maidens who reveled in showers of white and of rose-colored petals from their 
blossoms. For one of these fruit pupils had chosen white as its spring decora- 
tion while the other, each season, was bedecked with brilliant red. 

We are sure that they were not lonely in their new home, they had so many 
friends and neighbors; many of these were from their native land, but many 
more were from other parts of the world. There was the edible ash being trained 
to discard its bitter puckery character and become more useful. 

Corns from South America, Mexico and Japan formed a very large class> 
and attracted the attention of all visitors. One with long, ribbon-like blades 
striped with rainbow colors added grace and beauty to the garden. The master 
was training this to grow larger and to keep its colored stripes of uniform width. 

A queer experiment with Indian corn was witnessed by the Japanese pupils. 
It is called Indian corn, but even before the Indians inhabited North America the 
corn had begun its upward march toward perfection. It did not always have the 
full compact ears of plump kernels we now see, centuries had passed in its de- 
velopment. The master decided to have it retrace its steps, to go backward to 
what it was before the Indians came, thinking that he might gain some knowl- 
edge by which he could train it for greater usefulness. The backward steps were 
taken in a few years, so, in the plant school, corn in all stages of development may 
be seen, from wild, grass-like corns to the best cultivated kinds. 

And the plant pupils heard the story of little Prince Artichoke who, robed in 
purple and green, came to the plant school direct from the gardens of the King 
of Italy. When he reached America he found that here his most numerous rela- 
tives were the despised and neglected thistles growing by the wayside and in the 
fence corners, although in southern Europe the artichoke grew in abundance in 

90 Stories of Luther Biirhank's Plant School 

the gardens of both rich and poor and was highly prized as an article of food. 
It was served not as a vegetble alone, but in salads, soups and many other ways ; 
and the hearts of the tiny buds preserved in oils, called baby artichokes, are 
thought a great delicacy. 

But in America the real artichoke was little known or appreciated, so the 
mission of this little foreigner was to make his kind an important article of diet. 
This he had largely accomplished before the Japanese pupils arrived, for from the 
plant school had already been graduated an artichoke of very superior size and 
quality and with great deep sky-blue blossoms very ornamental. 

They saw curious odd-shaped fruits of different colors, produced by graft- 
ing a potato vine onto a tomato vine. They learned that it was only one of very 
many of the master's experiments, one easily effected, as the potato and tomato 
are nearly related plants, but the aerial potatoes which grew on the vine were of 
no especial value. 

They saw also experiments with grasses, grains, wild flowers, weeds of vari- 
ous kinds, peas, beans, tgg plants, carrots and so many more that the little strang- 
ers felt no longer strange. 

One experiment which to them seemed very sad in its results was that with 
a very delicate border plant. It came to school to be made larger, stronger and 
more nearly perfect. It was called "mesembryanthemum." It had been in train- 
ing for four years and had learned to produce a profusion of white flowers, its 
foliage was larger and it seemed stronger. The master had these plants in vari- 
ous parts of the garden and in the conservatory; but from some unknown cause 
each plant died suddenly. Thus this new flower was lost to the world and the 
work of the teacher unrewarded. 

Yet the Japanese pupils were not discouraged, they had been sent to be 
trained for further usefulness and when they saw the improved peach pupils with 
their large, luscious fruit they surely had faith in the teacher. But the master 
knew he had a difficult task for the ancestors of these foreign trees had never pro- 
duced peaches of value. For hundreds of years they had been grown in their na- 
tive land for the beauty of blossom and foliage. The fruit they bore had a rough 
pit, and was small, tasteless or bitter. 

It was many years before the master succeeded in training the Japanese trees 
to bear, but at last it was accomplished by poUenation and selection. All Japanese 
peaches are subject to a disease called curl leaf. These flowering peaches were 
crossed with the productive sweet Muir which is not greatly troubled with the 

Useful and Beautiful 91 

disease. After a long series of selections a tree was raised which grows six times 
as fast as the flowering peach and when spring comes it is wreathed in extremely- 
large double blossoms of brilliant rose pink. These blossoms are nearly three 
inches across. When the tree is in full bloom it looks like a bower of roses, and 
when the fruit ripens it is of a superior quality, as large as the Muir and an ex- 
cellent canning peach. 

Thus as this stranger from the Mikado's garden has grown more useful it 
also has become more beautiful and another new fruit has been added to the long 
list of graduates from the plant school. 


One time Burbank brought home to the plant school a tiny, cunning Jap- 
anese dog, which he named Jumbo. The little dog cost almost his weight in 
silver ; but never during the thirteen years of Jumbo's happy life would the master 
have parted with him for his weight in gold. 

Jumbo, like his namesake, the big elephant, was very wise, and when his 
master said, "Be careful never to step on the flowers or dig them up," his beauti- 
ful large eyes shone with intelligence. He understood every word, and was not 
known to disobey. He learned to love the same things his master loved, and 
walks with him in the garden were his delight, although he chose other places 
for his frolics. He really seemed to know and admire the plants. He knew 
always when a plant was removed, and another took its place. He appeared, too, 
to know by instinct just where the master was going, running on ahead, and 
waiting at the particular plant or tree upon which the great gardener's attention 
was at the time directed. 

The greatest joy of Jumbo's life was, however, the day that Burbank spent 
twice each week at the Gold Ridge farm. The evening before, the master would 
say, "Jumbo, you must get up early tomorrow morning, and eat a good break- 
fast — we are going to Sebastopol." 

Now Jumbo was an aristocratic dog, and usually stayed in his warm bed 
until breakfast was announced, but on these mornings he was up early, and so 
eager was he to be off that he very impatiently waited for the family to break- 
fast first; and when given his own was almost too impatient to eat. When his 
master would say, "Yes, Jumbo, eat a good breakfast, so you can go with me,'" 
his efforts to eat quietly were really amusing. 

Then in his own language Jumbo would ask to have his coat strapped about 
him, for the little body was very sensitive to the cold of the early morning. With 
barks of joy he ran to the gate, and was placed in the wagon on the seat beside 
his master. How proud he felt, barking at the big dogs they met on the road, no 
doubt thinking that he was the biggest of all ! 

Arriving at the farm, he followed his master in the warm sunshine all the 

Jumbo 93 

morning hours up and down the long rows of beautiful flowers. He lingered in 
the shade of the trees, becoming acquainted, and making friends with every grow^ 
ing plant, and all the time ants, bugs and toads were also receiving their share 
of attention from him. It was hard work following the master; so, after lunch 
he was usually contented to take a nap, lying quietly beside his master's coat until 
he saw Black Belle harnessed, and a tired, but happy dog, knew it was time to 
return to Santa Rosa. 

Jumbo's bed was a small box with an opening in one side, as well as at the 
top. When it was bedtime he would jump into the box and wait for his mast- 
^'s "good-night," keeping very quiet, and listening to 
"Now I lay me down to sleep, 
Hope my master will always keep 
A hunk of bread and a chunk of meat." 

Then, kissing his hand. Jumbo would curl down and have his blanket placed 
over him. He did not crawl out from under the cover until morning, but some- 
times a little brown nose might be seen at the opening in the side of the box. 

One day soon after he came to the Burbank home Jumbo stood watching 
Tortoise, the cat — an older, and larger member of the houshold — ^eating from; a: 
small dish. Evidently he had noticed that Tortoise had always the same dish, 
and that he was not allowed to eat from it. Probably he did not understand that 
his tongue lapped up the milk so fast that the cat, with her daintier way of eat- 
itig, would have had Httle chance to get her breakfast had he been allowed to 
€-at from the same plate. 

Jumbo stood still for some time, an act which was quite unusual for such 
a lively little animal, as if trying to solve a hard problem. Suddenly he ran out 
into the field where some soil was being prepared for use in planting. Among 
the ashes brought from town were some broken and discarded dishes. Jumbo 
Carefully dug the ashes over, and from the rubbish selected a small plate. With 
his delicate little paws he pushed it aside, and after much hard work succeeded 
in bringing it in his mouth to the house. 

Placing it beside the cat's dish, he looked around with a satisfied expression, 
as if to say, "I, too, now have a dish of my own." That was ever after Jumbo's 
own personal dinner plate, and he did not allow the cat to even look at it. 

Jumbo was a very fastidious little fellow. Once an ant ventured to climb up 
over the edge of his plate toward the food. Jumbo stepped back, gave two oc 

94 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

three sharp barks ; then, with a look of disgust, walked away, leaving his dinner 

When Burbank came in at night, tired from a long day's work preparing the 
soil or caring for the plants, he would say, "Now, Jumbo, you must make me 
laugh." Then the dog would stand perfectly still, drop his long soft ears, shut 
his eyes, and would not move until he thought of something to do. Suddenly he 
would become a clown, always with a new trick. Sometimes in walking across 
the room he would in the most awkward manner stub his nose on the carpet and 
tumble down, looking so surprised that no one could doubt that he understood 
the joke. At another time his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to jump upon 
a chair or the lounge ( a very easy task for him) would win the applause he an- 
ticipated. Again, he would take fright at a fly, or some imaginary object, pre- 
tending it was a great monster striking terror to his very being, then suddenly 
look around as if to say, ''Did I fool you?" He never failed to produce the 
laugh, and receive the applause of his audience, whether it consisted of his mas- 
ter alone, or of other friends. 

Because no member of the household ever deceived him, Jumbo believed just 
what was told him. He made friends readily, and was quite fond of his master's 
bookkeeper who highly prized the little dog's friendship. Unfortunately, one 
iTJorning the book-keeper thought to play a joke on Jumbo. He told him to 
watch at the window for an absent member of the family, saying that she would 
return that day. Poor little Jumbo believed him, and watched patiently all day 
at the window. When the shades were drawn in the evening he actually cried, 
feeling no doubt that he was the victim of an unkind joke. Never afterward 
v/culd Jumbo pay the least attention to the bookkeeper, except to look reproach- 
fully at him, as if to say, "You are no longer my friend." 

The one great sorrow came into Jumbo's life when Burbank decided to 
visit his friends and old home in Massachusetts. Jumbo seemed to understand 
all the preparations made for the journey, closely following his master's steps 
for several days before his departure, in every way showing unusual affection for 
him. Burbank patiently endeavored to m.ake him understand that he would re- 
tuTn in a fev/ weeks, and that the best of care would be given to his little pet 
while he was away. Jumbo could not be reconciled, and after his master left re- 
fused to eat. Everything possible was done to comfort him. Something of his 
master's — a coat, a glove, a shoe, or hat — v/as given him each day, beside which 
be would lie and moan. 

Jumbo 95 

Very touching were the efforts he made to swallow a few bits of food, when 
told he must eat; but day after day he became thinner, until a letter was sent 
to Massachusetts, telling the master to return at once, or the little dog would not 

And when Burbank came Jumbo almost died of joy. Although he had been 
told of the coming, the shock was almost more than the little wasted frame could 
bear; but he was carefully nursed, and in a short time he was again the happy 
little Jumbo, with his usual good, dog appetite. 

After awhile Jumbo's days were numbered, and he closed his eyes. Very 
tenderly was the little body wrapped in his blanket, and placed in the earth in 
the shade of a beautiful palm tree near the master's home. 


ThhRK was a smile on the fruit and a smile on the flowers ; and a suppressed 
titter ran through the chestnuts, when Opuntia, the cactus child, came into 
school. He was so very green and such a homely fellow to look upon, that it 
it must have been hard for them to keep their faces straight. But most of the 
plant children had long since caught the spirit of the school and learned to know 
that appearances do not count for everything and that nothing is entirely 

So instead of passing this odd little urchin coldly by, they made up to him 
and showed a willingness to have him one of them in all things. Plants, you must 
know, are sociable in their dispositions, and are often more or less dependent 
one upon another. They are seldom pugnacious, and most of them live peace- 
fully together ; for it is their nature to be cheerful and happy. That is why they 
add so much to our happiness. 

Of course the school plants were curious to know where Opuntia came from, 
and something of his family history; for plant children are much like other chil- 
dren in this respect. To know them you must know something of their ances- 
tors. Then, too, the school plants were anxious to know about the training he 
was going to take to fit him for his life work. This was natural for inquiring 
minds. They were all there for improvement, to be helped and to help others. 
No place in the plant school for the lazy ! 

Opuntia was very clumsy and awkward among so many graceful children, 
and feared lest he should injure someone with the sharp thorns he was com- 
pelled to wear in his old home as an armor of defense. So he drew back a little, 
and this made him appear timid. He felt the gaze of all eyes upon him, and that 
made him nervous, as it would you, or in fact any of us real people. 

''Oh," he thought, "if they would not look at me so, I should feel lots better." 

But so many disagreeable things had come to him in his lean little life upon 
the desert, that he soon recovered from his embarrassment and forgot himself 
in the maze of beauty about him. What a contrast to the poor dwarfed, hungry 

Opuntia, The Cactus Child 97 

ones with whom he had always associated, were these well fed, beautifully clothed 
plant children! 

When Opuntia became better acquainted, however, he felt more at ease, 
and soon he talked freely with his new companions, and finally told them his 
story, as his old grandfather had often told it to him and his little prickly com- 

*'I have many relatives in America," he began, "and several in other 
lands whom I have never seen. Some call us 'prickly pear,' because of our 
needles and our pear-like fruit; but our real name is Opuntia. Our blooms are 
either red, yellow or purple, and, unlike our bodies, they are very frail and' 

''We had leaves once, as well as you," he informed them, "and were as 
thornless as Goldridge apple over there." 

"Impossible !" came from the plant people on every side. 

"Oh, no. I am quite sure it is true, for grandfather told me. When I tell 
you how it came about that we lost them, you can see for yourselves I am right. 

"See these little leaflets I wear still, where the old true leaves used to be." 

The cactus child was greatly strengthened by the nourishing food given 
him in such liberal quantities, and his spirit was rising. 

"Long, long ago," he went on, "our people were stranded in a place where 
they had to hustle alone. They tried to help each other, but it seemed no use, and 
they became helpless and hopeless. The less hardy T)nes perished. The water 
gradually dried up as fine sand drifted in and filled the low meadow that was once 
our beautiful home, and which in ages past had been an inland sea. Then our 
people talked the matter over, and it was the opinion of the wisest ones, that, in 
order to keep any moisture at all in their bodies they must have smaller leaves or 
drop their leaves entirely. In this way there would be less surface for the hot 
sun and scorching winds to draw it out. They had to learn this, of course, from 
Mother Nature. And, do you know, I heard the master say the other day, 'Na- 
ture never lies.' 

"As the years went by my people's home became dryer and dryer, gradually 
the water disappeared; and finally it was a desert. Then a still greater struggle 
began. Leaf, after leaf, was dropped, until all were gone and thick stems alone 
remained. The sun grew hotter and hotter. It became more and more dif- 
ficult to get food from the dry plain, and the thirsty and hungry animals tor- 
mented them constantly. 

98 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

"Finally a great convention was called to discuss the sad condition ; for no 
one had come to rescue them or to offer help of any kind. It was decided then 
and there to grow thorns with which to protect themselves; for without some 
means of defense, even after shedding their leaves, they would be driven from 
off the earth. Mother Nature, the friend of every living thing in the world, 
had already told them that this was their only hope, now that they were so hard 
pressed, and they believed her. 

"They grew sharp needle-like thorns at first and placed them at just the 
right angles to ward off meddlesome tongues and teeth. They also placed 
bundles of very tiny needles, more than ten thousand to each stem, below and 
at the surface, where they were partially embedded in the flesh. These were even 
more dangerous to animals than were the larger needles ; for they not only pro- 
duced great pain and inflammation, but often caused death to the ones driven by 
starvation to eat the stems for food. 

"Wearing thorns had a tendency to change the dispositions of my fore- 
fathers. They took on a fighting spirit, and much of their former sweetness left 

Opuntia's tone grew serious, as he added, "Oh, if I could only be as beauti- 
ful and useful as my people once were !" 

"No plant child can long remain here without becoming both beautiful and 
useful," spoke the once bitter elderberry, that had been a long time in training, 
but was now white and delicious as a grape. 

"We know that," came from a passion flower over the way, as she waved 
her arms and nodded her starry crown. "We know that, see the fine fruit we will 
soon offer the world." 

The master came on his regular round to note what the dear plant children 
had achieved, and they all turned to smile upon him, leaving the cactus child 
alone and thoughtful. 


Thk master of the plant school, with the farsightedness of a prophet, saw 
what a great work could be done to reclaim the desert regions of the earth, if 
he could but rid Opuntia of thorns and prickles. The vast parched plains, now 
barren and useless, would yield a new food for both man and beast; for the 
cactus is nearly all food and drink. Burbank's quick eye saw beneath the rough 
exterior, behind the thorns, a tender heart, and not only a tender one but a juicy 
one as well. And, although Opuntia, the cactus child, stood there before him 
with his needles thrust out defiantly in every direction, seeming to say, "Touch 
me, if you dare!" the master knew that this unfriendly child possessed many 
good qualities, which recommended him for training in the plant school. 

Opuntia had a strong, hardy constitution and grew rapidly. He did not 
shrink from the blistering sun, like most plant children. He could thrive on any 
soil, for he was used to small rations, and he did not care in the least if his home 
were changed from the barren plain where he was so hunted; for animals, both 
small and large, sought him there eagerly, though the thorns often pierced them 

Opuntia, thought the wise one, will doubtless prove a stubborn child and 
need strict discipline. It will require a steady hand to guide him ; and great pa- 
tience will need to be exercised for years and years. But no matter about that. 
No matter how wild or defiant a plant seemed, if Burbank saw in it something 
good and useful, the pupil was received even joyously, as in this case, into the 

Luther Burbank had long been acquainted with many species and varieties 
of the cactus. Indeed, as a little child, when he first began to toddle, a 
lobster cactus in a little pot, one of the beautiful Epiphyllums, was his plaything. 
He hugged the treasure close and carried it carefully ; but one day he stumbled and 
fell, breaking both pot and plant. You can well imagine how sorry he felt. Who 
can say but that this first love of the plant was the beginning of the great work 
with Opuntias he was to do for the world — the child-love for that little cactus 

lOO Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

The great work of training the cactus child began in earnest when the mas- 
ter brought Opuntia from Mexico. This was soon after he gave up growing 
trees in his nursery and turned his whole attention to plant improvement and 
the creation of new and better forms of plant life. 

First the cactus thorns must be gotten rid of; for no other advancement 
would fit Opuntia for usefulness as long as he wore them. So the master gave 
the cactus child to understand that he would look much better and become more 
useful and lovable, if he would drop those ugly thorns and put on a civilized 
suit of clothes, and furthermore that he would save himself the great effort 
which he had to make to produce those thorns. He taught Opuntia that 
obedience would bring him into a beautiful life, and promised all the help and 
care needed. He assured the plant child that nothing should harm him, and that 
good nourishing food would be his in abundance. Plants, as well as human be- 
ings, know when we are kind to them, and little Opuntia felt all this kindhearted 
attention of the teacher. 

Soon many of Opuntia's relations were brought in to aid iii the great plan 
of improvement for the cactus child. Opuntia was greatly pleased, but when 
they tried to become acquainted, he was somewhat confused, for there was jab- 
bering in so many languages. Some had come from Africa, some from Hawaii, 
others from Japan, Australia and the south sea islands, while there were those 
from France, Sicily, Italy and from many parts of the United States. Thou- 
sands were in one plot in rows only a few inches apart. 

One thing that especially caused Opuntia to wonder was that he had fewer 
thorns than they; and he could not understand, as yet, how they could assist 
him in improvement. But later on he learned that each one possessed some 
good quality that was needed in his development for usefulness. One was more 
hardy than he, one produced more and better fruit, another had less of the tough 
fiber and more flesh, and so on. 

A few of them had already been quite useful. A neighbor of his from 
Mexico he found served as a home for the cochineal bug, which, when dried, 
makes a famous carmine dye. One from Italy produced a fruit known as the 
Indian fig, which was relished by many as a food. Others were used in Au- 
stralia, Mexico and in the southern part of the United States as a food for cat- 
tle, after singeing off the thorns. 

When this great company of cactus people blossomed, the work of poUena- 
tion or crossing began. This must be done in order to combine the good qualities, 

Opuntia's Training loi 

to break up old habits and to produce variation. It was then that little Opuntia, 
the cactus child from Mexico, who was now growing thriftily, came into fullest 
notice for he was to have especial aid in his advancement. 

While the work of pollenation was a labor of love to the master, it was also 
an extremely painful task to perform. The cactus differs greatly from other plants 
in the facilities it offers for improvement. Its flowers are in full bloom, only from 
one-half to two and one-half hours in the hottest time of the day, during the 
hottest summer months. All arrangements for pollenation must be ready when 
the blossoms first opened and waved their bright banners and exhaled their per- 
fume to attract the bee or some other pollen-bearer ; for no trace of pollen carried 
otherwise than by the master must be on the flower before the pollen he selected 
and applied to it. The work, therefore, demanded careful preparation and haste. 

In gathering the golden dust from Opuntia's blossoms and in placing it 
upon the stigmas of the other cactus people's flowers, the teacher's fingers were 
often pierced by the sharp needles, and the tiny spicules sometimes worked their 
way into the flesh causing great pain. Every step in combining the thousands of 
plants must be carefully guarded. Only skilled workmen could aid in this, so 
the master endured the ordeal year after year, during all the time he was train- 
ing his cactus child. 

Most of the baby cacti grown from the seeds thus fertilized showed great 
stubbornness in their old habit of growing thorns and spicules. Thousands 
showed no improvement. Some were even more defiant, bearing uglier thorns 
and more of them. A small number showed a great change, by producing fewer 
spines or needles. These were placed by themselves. They alone had obeyed 
the master's instructions and would be allowed to go on to still higher advance- 

Selection, the greatest force in plant improvement, is always a slow process. 
It requires skill and delicacy of recognition to select a few of the best from thou- 
sands of plant people. In the training of Opuntia this selection was of greatest 
importance, for only those having the fewest or no thorns were the best. Some- 
times only one out of a hundred thousand was saved. Year after year for nearly 
ten years this selection or choosing went on, before the benefactor's tireless eye 
began to see any great improvement. Then there were seven or eight of all the 
thousands, which had been in the school, that were not only free from thorns, 
but had the growing and feeding qualities^ for which he had so long striven. 
They were children no longer now, but giant cacti, as tall as full grown men. 

I02 Stories of Luther Biirhank's Plant School 

Their leaves were from ten to twenty inches long, from six to twelve inches wide 
and from one to two inches thick, and bearing delicious fruit. There was not 
a spine or spicule in all their rich meat. The woody fiber had partly disappeared, 
and the surface was as smooth as a watermelon. 

Little Opuntia, the cactus child, was justly proud of these finely developed 
plant children, who were on the honor roll, and were now ready to go on to a 
higher education for usefulness. 


Just as all eyes of the plant people were turned upon the cactus child, when 
he entered the school, so are the eyes of real people now centered upon its off- 
spring, the spineless edible cactus, which is among the greatest, the most wonder- 
ful and the most useful of all Burbank's plant children. It means the regenera- 
tion of much of the desert land — even of Sahara and the Great American desert. 
The story and greatness of its re-creation would make a large book. Some day, 
maybe, you can read its full history. We wish we could repeat it all here and 
now ; but we can tell only some of the m.ost interesting parts. 

Sixteen years crowded with patience, infinite patience; and waiting, anxious 
waiting. No one but a genius with deep faith could have succeeded in this great 
task. No one has ever equaled it in plant improvement. 

Not only are agriculturists everywhere interested in these useful plant chil- 
dren; but governments of all countries, where they can be grown, are taking 
measures to secure supplies of stock to provide against the possibility of all too 
frequent famines. For they can be planted and remain uncultivated and un- 
disturbed, constantly increasing in size and weight, until needed, then each acre 
would preserve the lives of hundreds of animals or even human beings for 
months, until other food could be obtained. No class of plant people is easier 
grown. Quality of soil is of little importance. Cultivation is almost or quite 

The old prickly pears produced as much as eighteen thousand pounds of 
fruit to the acre, and this was a common crop on the poorest soil. The best of 
the new Opuntias will sometimes produce more than one hundred and eighty 
thousand pounds of delicious fruit on the same space. It is the only forage plant 
that furnishes such an abundance of juicy, green feed the year round. Its big 
luscious slabs or leaves can be cut at any time, summer or winter, and they fur- 
nish water as well as nutritious food. This is the reason why intelligent people 
know full well that a new era in agriculture has dawned for continents like Aus- 
tralia and Africa, and for millions of the now useless acres in other countries. 

Remember these spineless edible cacti are new plants — wholly new — the 

104 Stories of LiitJicr Burbank's Plant School 

product of the brain and hand of Luther Burbank. Do you think for a moment 
he could have accompHshed this wonderful work without faith in himself and 
faith in the intelligence of plants ? 

Partially thorny ones have been grown for ages and cultivated for their 
fruit. But systematic training in the plant school shows how rapidly they im- 
prove under cultivation and how readily they adapt themselves to more fertile 
soils. Plant children are indeed like other children in this respect. 

"But won't they run wild and grow thorns again, if they are planted on 
desert land?" asks one. 

"Oh, no!" says Burbank, ''their character is fixed by continued selection, 
as the characters of other new plants have been fixed. The little plants must, of 
course, have cattle kept from them until they are large enough, just the same as 
any young plant must be protected." 

If turned loose on the desert to grow wild, perhaps, in defending themselves 
as their m^ost ancient ancestors did, they might in a thousand years of fighting, 
grow spines again ; but never while under the cultivation of man. 

As children differ in their talents, so Opuntia's people vary in usefulness. 
Some are good for their fruit, others for forage, while some are useful for both. 
The greatest usefulness, perhaps, and one that cannot now be fully appreciated 
in its far-reaching benefits, is that of forage for all ki^ds of cattle and poultry, 
and especially for cows. The increase in both quantity and quality of milk is very 
marked v/hen the Opuntia has been fed. It promises now to become one of the 
most important food producers of the age, and yet the work with it has only be- 
gun. If you should visit the plant school you would see thousands growing un- 
der the watchful care of the teacher for further development, and several years 
will yet pass before they are ready for graduation. 

The fruit is very unique and attractive in appearance ; and its flavor is rich, 
suggestive of the banana, the pineapple or the apricot. It is delicious, when, 
standing by the plants, it is eaten from the hand, or when served with sugar and 
cream, as a desert at meal time. It is also used as a salad, and may be baked as 
you bake bananas. It ranges in color, both skin and flesh, from almost white to 
deepest crimson. Some kinds are a light greenish with a crimson flush, while 
others arc a deep orange, almost an amber. The general way of preparing the 
fruit for use is either to rub it off with a coarse cloth, or brush it off with a whisk 
broom, cut a thin slice from each end and run the knife through the skin from 
end to end. You can then curl the skin back easily, leaving the sweet flesh ready 

Opuntia, One of the Most Famous Pupils 105 

for use. Or one may cut through the fruit from end to end and remove the 
flesh with a spoon. Opuntia's fruit is very wholesome and keeps well. It can 
be gathered and stored like apples. 

Perhaps you have eaten candy colored with this fruit or ices colored with 
it, for these are among its many uses, while the leaves furnish a mucilage which 
makes a whitewash more lasting and the fiber is quite valuable for paper-making. 

If you would like to grow some of these curious plant children in your gar- 
den, secure some cuttings in warm weather and lay them up to wilt for about a 
week. They will then root readily in any soil in a warm climate, for they just 
love to grow. Why, they would grow if you threw them down on the ground — 
even the blooms, buds or fruit will take root under the most trying conditions. 

You can have several varieties from the earliest to the latest, and have ripe 
fruit in your own garden from June to the last winter months. The leaves would 
feed your poultry, and there would be any amount of pleasure for you in watch- 
ing their rapid development. 

You will remember that the cactus child longed to be useful and beautiful 
as was its forefathers in ancient times. Has it not realized its highest 
ambition ? 



**Thk best way to learn all about the beauty and glory and magnificence of 
Nature is to work with your hands, as well as with your head. Help a rose, even 
a blade of grass, to grow more beautiful, and you will be a partner with God." 

— Joaqum Miller. 

It is a good thing to make friends with Mother Nature and learn to know 
her trees and flowers well. They all have messages of love and cheer ; then, too, 
we have so many things for which to thank the plant people — food, clothing, 
shelter, cooling shade and many more. And they are delightful companions. 
Books are the best of indoor friends, and trees and plants the best of outdoor 

Luther Burbank has learned to appreciate all this, for he says, "What occu- 
pation could be more delightful than adopting the most promising individual from 
among a race of vile, neglected orphan weeds, with settled hoodlum tendencies, 
down trodden and despised by all, and lifting it up by breeding and education 
to a higher sphere? To see it gradually change its sprawling habits, its coarse, 
ill-smelling foliage, its insignificant blossoms of a dull color to an upright plant 
with handsome glossy, fragrant leaves and blossoms of every hue and with a 
fragrance as pure and lasting as could be desired?" 

Can you imagine anything more dehghtful? Would you not like to try? 
The work which Luther Burbank has done so successfully and is still doing, you 
may begin to do now. You need not wait until you are grown. You may be- 
gin this very day to study plant life ; and you might make some wonderful discov- 
ery even before you are out of school that would make the world richer by far. 

Try to put yourself in the place of a plant. Perhaps it is wild and would 
be made tame ; or it has an unpleasant odor and desires a sweet fragrance. It 
may have an unattractive flower which it wishes bright and beautiful. If a fruit, 
it is sour and wants to be made sweet. It might be a berry full of hard seeds that 
hurt its feelings and it would like them removed; or a nut that would be useful 
but for its puckery bitterness. Burbank has changed all of these things and many 

How New Plants Are Made 107 

more. He says, "I have no magic or secrets to impart, I simply learn and follow 
Nature's laws." 

Every boy or girl should have a little garden of his very own, for many 
happy moments are found among plant friends. Then what a pleasure to pick 
some flowers or pull some radishes for mother that grew in your own garden! 
If some time that little garden became a plant school with you as the teacher, 
and you could go to mother with a lovely flower, unlike any that had ever been 
known before, and exclaim proudly, with joy in your heart, ''Oh, mother, see 
my new flower ! I made it grow, or at least I helped Mother Nature make it 
grow," would it not be great? 

Now, pay close attention and try to understand how the teacher of the plant 
school works. Remember the work must be done just right and you must be very 
patient, for Mother Nature never hurries things. You will soon find how fasci- 
nating the work is ; and, as it must be done in the open, it is very healthful. 

New plants are produced by selecting or choosing, year after year, the one 
plant among many of its kind, which has an especial quality that you desire, and 
saving the seeds from this one plant only, instead of planting seeds from every 
one. In this way by selection alone, you can make the blooms larger, change their 
color, lengthen or shorten the stem ; and make many other changes. Fix firmly 
in your mind the improvement you wish, then keep right on and the desired re- 
sult is sure to come. 

This process can sometimes be greatly hastened by crossing two plants, 
which are closely related but have different qualities, unlike in size or color; but 
both of v/hich have tendencies toward the ideal plant that you have in your mind 
to create. To understand what is meant by crossing, you must recall some 
things you have learned about the parts of a flower and the uses of these parts. 
Every symmetrical flovv^er has sepals, petals, stamens and a pistil and several pol- 
len-bearing anthers. In order for a plant to produce seed, pollen must fall upon 
its stigma. It seldom happens that the pollen of a blossom fertilizes its own seed. 
Nature has many interesting ways of preventing this, which, we are sure, you will 
enjoy studying out for yourself. Many of the most beautiful truths about plants 
are made known only to those who love plants and observe their ways closely. 
Nature has many pollen-carriers, you know — the bees, the wind and many more — 
to bring the golden dust from other flowers, when the flower is ready to receive 
it. The pollen is believed to be a food for the seed. 

If you should plant white corn near a field of yellow corn, many ears 

io8 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

would be found to have both white and yellow kernels, for the wind has carried 
pollen from the yellow corn tassel to that of your white corn, and so the seeds be- 
come crossed or mixed. This crossing is continually going on everywhere in 
nature, and thus each plant has an individuality, no two being exactly alike. Al- 
though to most persons all buttercups or daises look alike, they vary in many 
ways. There is as infinite variety in flowers as there is in human faces. 

Usually when we speak of crossing we refer to the work of man in com- 
bining two plants with a direct object in view. An apple blossom will illustrate 
how this crossing is done. The only tools you will need are a good microscope, 
a tiny saucer to hold the pollen and a small, sharp knife. Some morning, when 
the flowers are about to open, gather the anthers of several blossoms from one 
tree and place them upon your saucer to dry. The pollen will soon shake off. 
The blossoms on the other tree to which you wish to apply the gathered pollen, 
must not be open or in full bloom, lest some pollen-carrier has been there first. 
Carefully cut from the blossom, with your little knife, the anthers leaving the 
pistil uninjured. Then dip the tip of your finger into the pollen in your saucer 
and place it gently upon the stigma of the flower, which you have prepared to 
receive it. It will hold the yellow dust fast. There is nothing now left to attract 
a pollen-carrier to the fertilized blossom, for its bright petals are gone, and there 
is no footing left for the insect to light upon. It would be well to place a tag 
upon the bloom so that you can watch it closely and carefully save the seeds when 
they ripen. These seeds will be combinations of the two varieties crossed. Plants- 
from them will, no doubt, vary greatly, giving an opportunity for selection of 
the best from the seedlings. 

This process of selection of the best plants should be carried on faithfully for 
several years or generations in order to fix any quality in either fruit or flowers. 

The seedlings from combined plants furnish a fine study, as the variation is 
so great. Some may be superior to either parent or they may be valueless. One 
of the main objects of crossing is to produce this variation, from which selection 
may be made. In the second generation the variation may be still more marked 
than in the first. 

The work of plant improvement is beyond comparison with any other 
chosen occupation, owing to the delight it gives one and the happiness it adds 
to the human race. 


Would you peep into the large, light seed room? If so, come with us. 
Here are shelves at the sides of the room from floor to ceiling on which the seeds 
are arranged alphabetically. No doubt, you can readily tell some of the seeds on 
the A and B shelves, but what seeds fill the X, Y and Z shelves ? 

The larger and heavier seeds are in strong cloth bags, then there are paper 
bags of all sizes down to the little seed packages seen on sale in the stores. 

On the long work-table is a pair of very delicately balanced scales, and tiny 
measuring cups, some of which are less than one-fourth the size of a thimble ; yet 
some seeds are too small for even this measure and are lifted on the point of a 

The larger part of these seeds were grown on the experiment farms; and, 
after having been carefully gathered, dried and cleaned, are brought here to be 
weighed, measured, assorted, plainly labeled, listed and placed on the shelves. In 
handling seeds the greatest accuracy and most perfect system is required, as any 
confusion would result in serious trouble. Here, as in all the departments, care- 
ful memoranda are made, giving time of planting of each kind, and other points 
which must be observed. These seeds are for next season's planting for experi- 
mental purposes. Any, however, not required are either sold in bulk to the large 
^seed-houses or put up in small packages for the retail trade. 

Be careful, as you pass the table, for with a breath you might blow away the? 
value in many dollars of those tiny, feathery seeds ; and some are priceless, per- 
haps the only seeds of a new variety, which cannot be replaced. 

Some choice lilies were once growing near the road at the Gold Ridge farm. 
One morning the gate was left open for a short time, and a child passing saw 
the lilies and broke one oif, doubtless intending no harm. The children are gen- 
erally very careful not to injure Burbank's plants, well knowing that he is always 
glad to fill their arms with flowers when he has time to gather them. Therefore 
the little girl did not take the most beautiful lilies, but one stalk having only a few 
fresh blooms at the top of the long stem, which was becoming ragged with faded 
flowers and ripening seed pods. It chanced that for this very seed the master 

no Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

had waited years, as it was the combination of two choice lilies, which bloomed 
at different seasons. One opened its beautiful flowers in early spring, while the 
other came in summer. In order to make the combination, the habit of each must, 
by long continued training, be changed. Year after year, one of the lilies had 
been trained to bloom a little later each season, and the steps of the other had been 
hurried, until June of that year found each with opening petals. Then the gold- 
en pollen had been brought from lily number one just as Hly number two was 
ready to receive it. But now, by one thoughtless act, the work of years was un- 
done, and the precious seed was gone. Can you imagine his grief when he dis- 
covered the loss, knowino- as he did that no seed like it had ever before existed? 
A careful search was made to discover if even one seed could be found. The fad- 
ed flowers and seed pods had been hastily stripped from the stem and thrown 
down upon the sandy soil as worthless. A few of the precious seeds were rescued 
and the experiment saved to science. 

What curious packages ! Yes, those seeds were gathered by children in 
South America; those are from the mountains of China; and there are many 
others that speak to us of distant lands and of strange scenes and customs. Then 
what treasures are here! Can you imagine the mischief one little mouse might 
do in this room ? Giant trees, sturdy shrubs and fragile flowers are sleeping here. 
Can you tell what plant is hiding in this seed ? Its character, its past history and 
a prophecy of its future growth are written in its structure and may be read by 
a skilled observer. As Burbank holds a seed in his hand, he knows its nature and 
understands what conditions are necessary for its germination and development. 

Some seeds may be kept for years, others must never be allowed to become 
dry. Some will germinate only under glass, requiring the warmth and moisture 
of the conservatory ; others must be boiled in water for five or ten minutes, while 
still others must be frozen in order to allow the little plantlet to escape from the 
hard shell. The conditions required depend largely upon the environment of its 
ancestors ; seeds of plants from tropical countries requiring very different treat- 
ment from those of the colder regions. There are, however, many other points 
to be considered, for seeds have many strange and interesting habits. Near the 
geysers in California, where forest fires are frequent, there grows a kind of pine 
having cones that never open until a fire has burned over the hillsides, destroying 
the vegetation. Then these cones burst open, the seeds escape from their prison 
houses and, falling upon the ground, now cleared to make room for them, thick 
forests of young pines spring up. 

7^he Seed Room iil 

A seed is an ^gg, a plant Qgg ; for within the shell or covering is a little un- 
developed plant; and snugly packed with it is a supply of food for its nourish- 
ment, when it first awakens, before it becomes able to gather its own nourish- 
ment from earth and air. The different parts of a seed can be readly seen with 
the aid of a good pocket microscope, which one is well repaid for carrying, as it 
reveals much of wonder and beauty in the varying structure of seeds, almost 
equaling that of the flowers. And seeds are everywhere. They fl[oat on the wa- 
ter, fly in the air, carpet the earth and sleep in the ground beneath our feet. With- 
out the product of seeds the earth would be brown, not green. In seeds lie sleep- 
ing a future generation of plants, only awaiting certain conditions of moisture, 
heat and light to awaken them. 

The destruction of a blossom prevents the development of the seeds. Have 
you ever seen a flower blooming in field or forest, with joy written in its every 
line of beauty, ruthlessly torn up and thrown down by the dusty roadside? Did 
you watch it shrink, shrivel and die? No seeds were ripened for another sea- 
son's growth. In just this way many of our most beautiful wild flowers are be- 
coming each year less plentiful. 

Athough the life of each plant begins and ends with the seed, yet each has a 
definite work to perform. They are sometimes spoken of as idly dancing in the 
sunshine. In reality they are very busy creatures, no doubt finding joy in their 
work. The poet Wordsworth says, 

''And 'tis my faith that every flower 
Enjoys the air it breathes." 

Not only do plants in the days of summer gather nourishment for their own 
life and growth and prepare food for the little embryo plants hidden in the seeds ; 
but it is to their industry that we look for our food, and much of our clothing, 
fuel and shelter. If for one season they ceased to work, there would be no life 
on the earth. 

The population of the world is increasing. Cities are growing very rapidly 
and food is becoming each year higher in price. Better and larger crops must be 
produced. It is then to better and more productive seeds that the nations are 
looking for food for their increasing millions. 

Now, let us consider what would be the result in the food supply, if in the 
grains alone, snugly packed in each little plant nest, there might be only one more 
tgg. The master tells us that if a new wheat, barley or oats could be obtained 
that would produce one more grain to each head, or a corn that would produce 

112 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

an extra kernel to each ear, in the United States alone, we would have annually, 
without any more cost or labor, 5,200,000 extra bushels of corn, 15,000,000 extra 
bushels of wheat, 20,000,000 extra bushels of oats and 1,500,000 extra bushels of 

May your work in coming years be, like that of the master, adding to the 
beauty of the earth and to the food of the nations ; and so hastening the "happy 
day when man shall offer his brother man, not bullets and bayonets, but richer 
grains, better fruits and fairer flowers." 


On the seventh of March, 1849, -as the snow was beginning to melt on the 
gently sloping New England hillsides, Luther Burbank began the rich life so 
full of messages for the flowers. The pink and white buds of the fragrant trail- 
ing arbutus were only waiting for a few sunny days and some one to love them 
that they might come forth from their hiding places under the green leaves ; and 
no child ever loved them more than Luther Burbank. 

The Burbank family lived in the beautiful and historic town of Lancaster, 
Massachusetts ; beautiful because of its great elm trees and picturesque scenery, 
and made historic by its connection with Indian life in the seventeenth century. 
The home was a large brick house, set some distance back from the road. Over 
it swayed the graceful branches of a great elm tree, in which every year the gold- 
en orioles hung their swinging cradles and poured out their notes of joy. 

In the summertime the yard in front of the house was aglow with bright 
flowers ; and during the cold winter months geraniums, fuchsias and pinks 
bloomed in the windows of the cheery living room. Even as a baby the child 
loved these flowers, and nothing pleased him more than one of these bright blos- 
soms placed in his hand. He never destroyed it ; but if a petal fell, the baby hands 
tried to replace it, that again the flower might be perfect. 

Once, when he was beginning to toddle about, he was found in the yard pa- 
tiently endeavoring to reset a little plant in the ground. At first it was thought 
that he had pulled it up and was trying to undo his mischief; but it was soon 
learned that the uprooting of the plant was the work of another, and that it was 
only his grief at its destruction which led to his efforts to make it grow again. 

Soon the wild flowers around the home became his companions and play- 
mates. On the hillside, under the elm tree in front of the house, grew some wild 
daisies. These he watered and cherished when he was so small that he could 
scarcely carry the little pail of water up the steep. The daisy faces became bright- 
er because of his love and care. 

Luther was a timid child, shrinking from strangers. When there were guests 
at the home that he thought might be at the dinner table, he would count the 

114 Stories of Lnihcr Bnrbank's Plant School 

plates, before he learned the numerals, by designating them as, "papa's," ''ma- 
ma's," and so on through the family. If more places were found than he could 
count thus, he would say, "I don't want any dinner," and quietly slip away with 
his old maltese cat, whose sympathy he sought in all his troubles. 

The work of caring for the bantam chickens, Guinea pigs, white rabbits and 
other pets of the household, was early assigned to him ; for each member of the 
family was given some task suited to his age and strength. He was fond of these 
animals, but even then the stronger love for growing plants was noticeable. No 
flower was commonplace to him. The lupine, the goldenrod and the buttercup 
growing by the wayside charmed him. Like the poet Whitman he felt that, 
*'The running blackberry vine would adorn the parlors of heaven." 

Near the home was a bank of clean, white sand, where the boy Luther spent 
many happy hours, playing with the other children. He laid out villages with 
streets, houses, mills and stores ; but always with orchards and gardens, for even 
his play was constructive, tending toward increased beauty by the use of plants. 

School life for Luther Burbank began in the district school near his home. In 
a small brick building, nestling among pine trees, fifty or more boys and girls of 
varying ages and grades were vmder the charge of one teacher. With trees to 
climb, hills to coast, a pond near by for swimming in summer and for skating in 
winter, the hours of play were as full as the hours of study. 

His first teacher in this school was an older brother, Herbert, who used to 
take the little fellow with him. Sometimes vx^hen the snow was too deep for lit- 
tle feet, after the mother had put on his coat, cap and mittens, tied a warm scarf 
over his ears and kissed him goodbye, this brother would draw him to school on 
his hand-sled. He was, at that time, too young for school life, and being a sensi- 
tive child, shrank from the fun and laughter of the older boys ; but the sled ride 
was heartily enjoyed. 

It happened that the next teacher in this school was his sister Jane ; and, al- 
though she was very proud of Luther, she found it very difficult to induce him 
to recite the lessons, which she knew he had mastered perfectly. 

Soon, however, he was at ease with his little school mates, and with them 
blew the dandelion heads, to ''know if mother ^yants you," held the shining butter- 
cups under each other's chin to "see if you love butter," and whistled with blades . 
of grass. He made popguns from elderwood, whistles from willows, bows and 
arrows from beech and hazel, and toy canoes from the bark of the white birch. 

Luther Burbank's Childhood 115 

He knew the spruce trees in the swamp, where the best chewing gum could be 
found. He knew the sweet birch and sassafras treel with spicy bark, the ferns 
and sweet flags with edible roots ; and in learning the uses of the various trees, 
plants and herbs, that grew near his home, he formed habits of observation, which 
have proved of the greatest value in his life work. 

It was he, also, who led the little band of barefoot boys and rosy-cheeked 
girls where the sweetest strawberries hid in the meadow grasses, the biggest blue- 
berries grew in the woodland pasture and where the finest hickory nuts and chest- 
nuts might be sought among the rustling leaves. Thus, as he turned the leaves 
of the great book of nature, over and over, the timid boy developed into a lead- 
er ; and, in this close intimacy and harmony with out of door life, learned to read 
much of the finer and more delicate tracing of the hand of God. 

At home he had the cows to drive to pasture, the chickens to feed, wood to 
bring, weeds to pull and a thousand tasks so Avell-known to a boy on a farm ; for 
a wise father kept him busy, yet he had time to build windmills, waterwheels and 
to repair broken sleds and skates. With the song of the robin and thrush to 
awaken him in the morning and a chorus of green-coated frogs to lull him to 
slumber at night, life was rich in the wealth of nature's gifts to a country boy. 

Through the meadow ran a rippling stream. There his bark canoes were 
floated, his waterwheels placed, as he waded in its clear waters among the nod- 
ding heads of golden cowslips ; and on its banks he gathered the cranberries red- 
dening in the sunshine, questioning why those hiding in mossy places were of 
paler hue. 

Sometimes with older brothers he strolled over Pine hill for a swim in the 
smoothly flowing Nashua river, coming home with pockets filled with "shag- 
bark" nuts from the scattered trees growing on the interval land ; nor did he for- 
get to gather from the rushes an armful of cat-tails to place with wild roses in the 
large living room. Then there was boating on the quiet wood-encircled Cum- 
berry pond. While the others fished, the boy gathered the buds of the beautiful 
white pond Hlies resting on its surface; and, which opening next morning filled 
the rooms with their fragrance. 

But always dearest to him were the autumn days, when trees and vines were 
robed in russet, scarlet and gold ; and when the flowers began, one by one to close 
their eyes, making ready to lie down to sleep beneath a coverlet of snow. 

One of his first treasures purchased with his own earnings was a good mi- 

Ii6 Stories of Luther Burbank's Plant School 

croscope, with which he stucijed the tiny mosses and Hchens on the old stone walls, 
and which revealed to him some of the beauty of the flowers hidden to the un- 
aided eye. 

He early formed a taste for reading; for the home was well suppHed with 
books. The weekly visits of the "Youth's Companion" (then a much smaller pa- 
per than now), were welcomed by him, as by so many boys and girls since that 
time. The town of Lancaster had an excellent public library, and no one appre- 
ciated it more than did Luther. He read books of natural science, entering eager- 
ly into the study of each. For a time geology and the study of rocks occupied all 
his leisure moments. A slate quarry near by, the clay banks with varied colored 
strata and the great granite boulders of Rollstone hill were examined with care. 

Chemistry and physics, each in turn, held his thought, while he experiment- 
ed with an old tea-kettle in the back yard, making steam whistles and toy engines. 
Astronomy and evenings with the stars followed. Falling meteors, the milkyway, 
and the aurora borealis, all were phenomena of the most intense interest to him. 
He excelled in freehand drawing and in painting in oil colors, for into each study 
he threw his whole soul, and whether work or play occupied his attention, he had 
the habit of concentrating all his energy upon one thing at a time. 

When fifteen years of age he entered Lancaster Academy, becoming a gen- 
eral favorite with teachers and classmates ; and there he studied several winters. 
Each day he walked to the academy, which was three miles from his home ; often 
retracing his steps in the evening to enjoy an hour's practice in the gymnasium, as 
he Vv^as extremely fond of athletics. 

The summer months were spent in the city of Worcester, learning the me- 
chanics trade. He was faithful in the work in the great noisy plowshops, even 
excelling in it ; yet letters written at that time to the loved ones at home, speak 
more of the beauty of the earth and sky, of the music of the birds and frogs, than 
of city life and the sound of machinery. 

After leaving the academy, for a time he studied medicine and hygiene. 
This, as well as the other sciences, he endeavored to put into practice and to dem- 
onstrate the knowledge acquired ; and by so doing, no doubt, built up and streng- 
thened a naturally frail body. 

Nothwithstanding all these interests, the message to the plant world must be 
given ; and at the age of twenty-one he had begun his great life work, the train- 
ing of plants to greater usefulness and beauty. 

Luther Burhank's Childhood 117 

"And Nature, the old nurse, took 

The child upon her knee, 
Saying, 'Here is a story book 

Thy Father has written for thee.' 

'Come, wander with me,' she said, 
'Into regions yet untrod; 
And read what is still unread 
In the manuscript of God.' 

And he wandered away and away 

With Nature, the dear old nurse. 
Who sang to him night and day 

The rhymes of the universe. 

And whenever the way seemed long. 

Or his heart began to fail. 
She would sing a more wonderful song, 

Or tell a more wonderful tale." 
— Longfellow. 



Let us be brave harvesters in the broad field of thought. 

Be gentle, and gentle people come to you from near and far. 

Facts are living souls; ceremonies are cerements — the old clothes of facts. 

Ignorance is the only unpardonable sin. 

The man who cannot say no never gets the opportunity to say yes. 

Plastic child-nature absorbs your intent, not your words. 

No man ever did a great work for hire. 

I hope no one will ever be worse for my having lived. 

Flowers always make people better, happier and more hopeful; they are 
sunshine, food and medicine to the soul. 

Education and selection are the greatest forces in the production of all these 
fruits and flowers. 

Be just and generous, and the world sends you just and generous com- 
panions and friends. 

The farm is the foundation of our best manhood and womanhood, the true 
hope and strength and glory of the world. 

In these United States of America each citizen is a king. Each counts one 
unit in the destinies of city, state and nation. 

We are now standing upon the threshold of new methods and new discov- 
eries which shall give us imperial domain. 

Quotations Prom Luther Burbank 1 19 

There is not a single desirable attribute^ which, lacking in a plant, may not 
be bred into it. 

You may have observed the fact that man succeeds just in proportion to his 
abihty to get his head and hands into close partnership. 

The greatest happiness in the world is to make others happy ; the next great- 
est is to make them think. 

Ish^ll be content if because of me there shall be better fruits and fairer flow- 

It is very natural that we should associate flowers and children, as they are 
so much alike in many respects, and should in some points be treated alike. 

Cultivate kind, gentle and loving thoughts toward every person, animal and 
even the plants, stars, ocean, rivers and hills. 

Education should always be the guiding of a natural appetite for facts, never 
a hastening process. 

Science brings peace and good will to man with better home and food and 
clothing, better books and schools and libraries and better laws and better health 
and better lives with more warmth and light and hope. 

Fidelity, truth and wisdom, combined with labor, are the foundation stones 
of society; and the building of healthy, happy homes the highest aim and object 
of human effort. 

Choose what improvement you wish in a flower, a fruit, or a tree ; and, by 
crossing, selection, cultivation, persistence, you can fix this desirable trait irre- 

Repetition is the best means of impressing any one point on the human un- 
derstanding ; it is also the means which we employ to train animals to do as we 
wish ; and by just the same process we impress plant life. 

120 Stories of Luther Bnrbank's Plant School 

If we love and admire our friends, let us tell them so today. It does them no 
harm, and they will pass along the kindness. Yesterday is not ours, tomorrow 
may not be, tell them today. 

Any form of education which leaves one less able to meet everyday emer- 
gencies and occurrences is unbalanced and vicious, and will lead any people to 

If it be worth while to spend ten years upon the ennoblement of a plant, be 
it fruit, tree or flower, is it not worth while to spend ten years upon a child in this 
precious formative period fitting it for the place it is to occupy in the worM. 

There is no barrier to obtaining fruits of any size, form or flavor desired; 
and none to producing plants and flowers of any form, color or fragrance. All 
that is needed is a knowledge to guide our elTorts in the right direction, undeviat- 
ing patience and cultivated eyes to detect variations of values. 

Every great man or woman is at heart a poet, and all must listen long to the 
harmonies of nature before they can make translations from her infinite resources 
through their own ideals into creations of beauty in words, forms, colors or 

Man is slowly learning that he too many guide the same forces which have 
been through all ages performing this beneficent work which he sees every- 
where above, beneath and around him in the vast teeming animal and plant life 
of the world. 

During the course of many years of investigation into the plant life of the 
world, creating new forms, modifying old ones, adapting others to new condi- 
tions, and blending still others, I have constantly been impressed with the simi- 
larity between the organization and development of plant and human life. 

Music is fundamental, one of the great sources of life, health, strength and 
happiness. It is one of the voices of nature — a voice of soul to soul adapted to 
every mood. Music releases the soul from its mortal shell and takes it to bright- 
er skies, new oceans, mountains, flowers, birds, trees and brooks, where time ancf 
space do not intrude. 

Quotations From Luther Burbank 121 

In dealing with flowers, we are obliged somewhat to adapt ourselves to them, 
so with children. All flowers cannot be treated. alike. They have their peculiar 
habits and tendencies ; and utter failure will be at once encountered, if we attempt 
to treat all alike. And another fact applies to both, you must be sincerely hon- 
est with them. 

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, 
mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, 
brooks to wade, water Hlies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals 
to pet, hay fields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries, and hor- 
nets ; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best 
part of his education. 

It was once thought that plants varied within the so-called species but very 
little, and that true species never varied. We have more lately discovered that no 
tw^o plants are ever exactly alike, each one having its own individuality ,and that 
new varieties having endowments of priceless value, and even distinct new spe- 
cies, can be produced by the plant-breeder with the same precision that machinery 
for locomotion or other useful purposes are produced by the mechanic. 

I have here a plant school — an academy for fruits, flowers, berries, vege- 
tables and trees — and I am trying to teach my scholars how to develop their good 
natural qualities and to learn other virtues. I am trying to train them for great- 
er usefulness ; to teach them new virtues, new qualities, which will make them 
better and brighter, which they can pass along to the next generation, just as if 
they were men and women. 

In the study of the life of plants, both domestic and wild, we are surprised 
to see how much they are like children. Study their wants, help them to what 
they need, be endlessly patient, be honest with them, carefully correcting each 
fault as it appears, and in due time they will reward you bountifully for every 
care and attention, and make your heart glad in observing the result of your 

Science sees better grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, all in new forms, 
sizes, colors and flavors, with more nutrients and less waste, and with every in- 

122 Stories of Luther Burhank's Plant School 

jurioiis and poisonous quality eliminated, and with power to resist sun, wind, 
rain, frost and destructive fungus and insect pests ; fruits without stones, seeds, 
or spines ; better fiber, coffee, tea, spice, rubber, oil, paper and timber trees, and 
sugar, starch, color and perfume plants. Everyone of these, and ten thousand 
more, are within the reach of the most ordinary skill in plant breeding. 

To secure real knowledge, it is necessary to Hsten sincerely and patiently to 
Nature, not try to bend her to our crude notions of how she should perform her 
miracles. Be patient, try to get the truth always on all subjects, do not depend 
wholly on books; for knowledge thus obtained, although useful, can never take 
the place of your own personal observation and effort. Those who labor with 
hands, feet or brains are the real saviors of the nation and the home. Idleness, 
selfishness, and dishonesty will in all cases lead to crime, poverty and disgrace. 
Individuality, sincerity, manly and womanly courage to stand by our convictions, 
are necessary for any success. 

I love sunshine, the blue sky, trees, flowers, mountains, green meadows, sun- 
ny brooks, the ocean when its waves softly ripple along the sandy beach, or when 
pounding the rocky cliffs with its thunder and roar, the birds of the fields, water- 
falls, the rainbow, the davv^n, the noonday and the evening sunset, — but children 
above them all. Trees, plants, flowers are always educators in the right direction, 
they always make us happier, and better, and if well-grovvm, they speak 
of loving care and respond to it as far as is in their power ; but in all this world 
there is nothing so appreciative as children, — these sensitive, quivering creatures 
of sunshine, smiles, showers and tears. 

Who can estimate the elevating and refining influence and moral value of 
flowers, with all their graceful forms and bewitching shades and combinations of 
colors and exquisitely varied perfumes? These silent influences are unconscious- 
ly felt even by those who do not appreciate them consciously ; and thus with bet- 
ter and still better fruits, nuts, grains and flowers will the earth be transformed, 
man's thoughts turned from the base, destructive forces into nobler productiv.e 
ones, which will lift him to higher planes of action toward that happy day when 
man shall offer his brother man, not bullets and bayonets, but richer grains, bet- 
ter fruits, and fairer flowers. 

Quotations From Luther Burbank 123 

Growth within, is health, content and happiness ; and growing things with- 
out stimulate and enhance growth within. Whose pulses are not hastened, and 
who is not filled with joy, when in earth's long circling swing around our great 
dynamo, the sun, the point is reached where chilling, blistering frosts are ex- 
changed for warmth and growth! When the flowers and grasses on the warm 
hillsides gleefully hasten up through the soft, wet soil, or later, when ferns, 
meadow rues and trilliums, thrilled with awakened life, crack through and push 
up the loose, mellow earth in small mounds — little volcanoes of growth; all these 
variously organized life forces are expressing themselves each in its own specific 

DEC 12 1813 



March 7TH, the birthday of Luther Burbank, was in 1909 designated by the 
Governor of California as arbor day to be observed in the pubHc schools of the 
State by planting trees, vines and flowers, and by appropriate literary exercises. 
In many other states the day is also observed in the same way and proves a 
source of pleasure and is an inspiration to make homes as well as schools more 

The following may be an aid to the teacher and can be adapted to the differ- 
ent grades. 

In decoration of school-room, use as many Burbank creations as are at hand, 
fruit, flow^ers, etc. Live flowers growing in pots or boxes are to be preferred to 
cut flowers. Pictures of the scientist, his home, and experimental grounds may 
be placed on the wall. Fruits and flowers drawn in outline are excellent black- 
board decoration. 

Poems — 

'Tainter of Fruits and Flowers," Whittier. 

''Birthday of Agassiz," Longfellow. 

''Building of the Birch Canoe," Longfellow's "Hiawatha:' 

Sonnet, "Luther Burbank," Mary Belle Williams. 

Luther Burbank's Life Story: — Childhood, school days, incidents, work 
methods, achievements. 

Burbank quotations by older pupils. 

Story of his creations : — Shasta daisy, cactus, plumcot, Eschscholtzia, and 
others. The children may represent each of these plants. 

Music to be selected by the teacher. 

Planting of a Burbank tree and other trees and plants. At this time the 
teacher should emphasize the care of these plants and see that they do not suffer 
neglect as the months pass. 


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Jlf.tS 72